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A COURAGEOUS PASlt>R'S 

13 YEARS OF COMMUNIST 

TORTURE AND IMPRISONMENT— 

AND HIS FIGHT TO KEEP FAITH - AUVE IN 

PRISONS AND IN HIS COMMUNIST HOMELAND. 



TORTURED 

FOR HIS 

FAITH 

Haralan Popov 



An Epic of Christian Courage 
and Heroism in Our Day 



TORTURED FOR HIS FAITH 

Copyright © 1970, 1975, 1978 by Haralan Popov 

Thirteenth printing (revised edition) July 1975 

Nineteenth printing 1979 

ISBN 310 31262 

All rights reserved 

No portion of this book may be reproduced 
in any form without the written permission 
of the publishers, except for brief excerpts 
used in magazine reviews. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 77-102834 

Printed in the Republic of South Africa 
PROMEDIA 



Preface 

There were two things that sustained me during thirteen 
years and two months in Communist prisons. First, there was 
the knowledge that my life was truly in God's hands and not 
the hands of my Communist jailers. Second, I was sustained 
by the hope that I might live and someday give my testimony 
to the world and tell what I witnessed. 

My purpose in this book is not to show man's depravity; 
that depravity tells its own story and I experienced it day and 
night for more than thirteen endless years. No, my purpose is 
to show God's overwhelming love. If anything should stand 
out in this book, let it be the overwhelming truth of God's 
love in the midst of man's bestiality. 

This book is not only my story. As you read, it is 
important to keep this in mind. And it is most important for 
the reader to keep in mind that more than sixty years after 
the Bolshevik Revolution, the repression, the persecution 
of the Suffering Church, has not abated. This book centers in 
my beloved Bulgaria. Endless chapters of it are being written 
still in that small country; volumes more are being written 
elsewhere in the expansive Soviet bloc and in Communist 
China. Although this book tells what happened in Bulgaria to 
me and my fellow Christians, don't for a moment consider its 
confines to be so small. If you do, you will miss the point. 

This is a history, in a way, of all the Persecuted Church 
in Bulgaria, because I was not alone in prison. Scores and 
hundreds — even thousands — have suffered similar and 
worse fates. 

The situation in Bulgaria before my arrest must be 
understood as it was to get a grasp of what the Communists 
had set out to do. It was, and always is, a case of divide and 
conquer. And for Protestants in Bulgaria, the idea of unity, 
even though there was diversity, was a matter of paramount 
importance. The country historically is not Protestant at all; 



Greek Orthodox Christianity was the state religion. Protes- 
tants in effect, even though they were allowed freedom to 
propagate, still were regarded as religious interlopers. 

We Protestants, fired with evangelical zeal, considered 
the Greek Orthodox faith to be presenting the Gospel in a 
deficient manner. We could not see lives changed; we could 
not see vitality in the everyday life; we viewed the religion, 
as practiced, more a matter of form and culture than of living 
reality of the love of our Savior. We therefore considered 
Greek Orthodox Bulgaria a mission field, ripe unto harvest 
— not for Protestantism, but for the living Christ. 

That is why we had the United Evangelical Churches in 
Bulgaria, led by the Supreme Council of the United Church 
of Bulgaria, a body of church leaders elected every four 
years — an idea which came to fruition in Bulgaria, and an 
idea unique to my country. The four Protestant denomina- 
tions of Bulgaria — Baptist, Methodist, Congregational, and 
Pentecostal — could sit as aliens in one church under the 
umbrella of the United Church of Bulgaria. This was neces- 
sary because, to the Greek Orthodox mind, the division and 
differences which existed earlier cut hard against our mis- 
sionary efforts among them. In their mind, the Church can be 
only one. The divisions so evident before the formation 
of the United Evangelical Church only added to our diffi- 
culties. 

No, this is not my story alone. We were all arrested — all 
the members of the Supreme Council of the United Evangeli- 
cal Churches, including the religious representative, a liaison 
pastor before the government and the churches. 

In June of 1948, all the members of the Supreme Coun- 
cil including the chief religious representative were called to 
the office of the Minister of Religious Affairs. Our moment of 
truth had come, and within days there would be no mistak- 
ing. "Gentlemen, today in the National Peoples' Republic of 
Bulgaria, there are no two ways about it but only one: You 
are either for the Soviet Union or you are for the United 
States. " He then made it very clear what it means to be with 
the Communist party and to be loyal to its aims. 



Then came the crunch. He wanted each of us, in each of 
the churches, to make a statement from the pulpits — 
declaring our loyalty to the Bulgarian Communist party, the 
Bulgarian government, and the objectives of the Communist 
world — and to accuse the United States as imperialists and of 
interfering in the affairs of Bulgaria. 

We considered this a very brutal interference into the 
lives of the churches. We told the minister of religious affairs 
in clear terms that we as churchmen in our churches are not a 
political people. After we discussed the proposition, we told 
him that rather than do this we would close our churches. 
"We cannot do this,'* we insisted. 

Then we made a written statement and gave it to the 
minister. He read it and became absolutely livid and began to 
swear with every epithet and imprecation he could bring to 
mind. He threatened to arrest us immediately. A tense alter- 
cation ensued — provocative enough, given the state of the 
man's mind, to have had us put in prison on the spot. 

"Mr. Minister/' one of our spokesmen said, "we did 
not come here to have you swear at us and to threaten us. We 
are men of God and we must serve God as our consciences 
dictate. Why, if we must have this freedom, do you make 
such an impossible demand on us? We cannot go along with 
your request. We would be forced to close our churches 
before we would do that." 

4 'Don't talk to me like that . I can take that telephone and 
have you arrested right this minute!" 

He didn't pick up the telephone and make good his 
threats. Instead, he gave us a week to think it over. But our 
minds were set, and the week's Communist grace was only a 
matter of form. We returned and repeated our stand. Our 
character and conviction as Christians could not permit any 
other position. 

This, of course, in the situation of the day, was counted 
as betrayal of Bulgaria — not only betrayal, but as we soon 
were to find out, collaboration with the United States. There 
was no way out for us but to be loyal to the Christ within us. 
And this we were determined to do. The Communists were 



just as determined to do us and our churches in. It was not 
long after our arrest that the United Churches were divided by 
the Communists and hand-picked pastors were put in charge 
of each of the four denominations — with the Minister of 
Religious Affairs, a member of the Secret Police — as the real 
head. 

That, then, is the setting. That is how we, and many like 
us, went to prison. That is why many more in the Suffering 
Church still go to prison. 

This book, I repeat, is not to show man's depravity, but 
God's overwhelming love in the midst of man's depravity. In 
prison I learned the lesson of love as never before. Though I 
had preached of God's love from many pulpits, I came to see 
His love in a new way in the black despair of subterranean 
cells and in the faces of countless fellow -prisoners. Stripped 
of all material things and distractions, I found a greater 
reality in God than I had ever known before. The truth shines 
clearest where the circumstances are darkest. 



Contents 



Kidnapped From My Home 9 

The Endless Nights Begin 10 

" Welcome to the White House, Prisoner Popov'* 13 

A "Hard-Core" Atheist Finds Christ 14 

The Hand of God on a Man 18 

Bulgaria Becomes "Little Russia" 19 

Better Spies Than Christian Martyrs 20 

The Cell Walls Speak 21 

The "Death Diet" 26 

The Punishment CeD 27 

The Fourth Day at the Wall 30 

The Tenth Day 31 

The Fourteenth Day. 32 

Preaching the Gospel to the Secret Police 37 

Leading Mitko to Christ...^ 40 

The Showdown Comes 43 

The Wooden Shoe Song 48 

Broken, But Not Bowed 50 

The Tragic Suffering of Our Families 57 

"You're a Dead Man, Haralan Popov"... 59 

Classified As Unreformed.. 63 

Night Sounds 66 

A Gift From God 70 

Persin — An Island of Horror 72 

Secret Message in a Photo 77 

The Day Before Christmas.. 80 



Christmases in Prison 83 

Slave Labor at Persin 85 

Into the Death Chamber. 87 

Nine Months in the Pit 90 

The Incident of the Bean 91 

My Work As a Prison Pastor 95 

Memorizing 47 Chapters 99 

Preaching By Prison Telegraph 99 

I Lose My New Testament 105 

Bible Classes in the Prison Yard 106 

The Fruits of Imprisonment 112 

Amazing Old "Babba" Maria 118 

Church Spies Spying on Spies 121 

Underground With God 123 

Birthday Evangelism 125 

The Bible Scavenger 127 

Underground "Bible Factory" 129 

My Urgent Mission 132 

A Message From the Underground Church 137 

Still Calling From Macedonia 140 

Another Cry Is Heard 144 



TORTURED 

FOR HIS 

FAITH 



Kidnapped From My Home 



At 4 in the morning on July 24, 1948, my doorbell 
suddenly started ringing insistently over and over. Sleepily I 
arose, put on my robe and went to the door. There stood three 
strangers, two of whom were in ordinary clothes and the 
other in a uniform. "We have come to search your house," 
the leader in civilian clothes said and pushed his way past me 
into the sleeping house. My wife Ruth heard the noise and 
joined me in the living room where we watched with bewil- 
derment as the three men searched the entire house. As they 
were searching I thought, If s finally come. The time is here 
at last. 

They searched everywhere — through books, beds, 
bookshelves, storage chests, drawers — for three hours. 
They didn't miss anything! As the sun came up around 7 a.m. 
they turned to me and ordered me to come along with them. 
I must come along but it was only for "a little questioning, ' ' 
they explained. 

Little did I know that this "little questioning'' would 
last for thirteen endless years of torture and imprisonment. 
As they were shoving me out the door half-dressed, Rhoda, 
my little daughter, awoke and came running into the living 
room. With a child's quick perception, she realized her father 
was being taken away. She burst into tears and began crying 
her little heart out — her body trembling and shaking from 
the sobbing. 

"They're taking daddy. They're taking daddy!" she 
cried over and over. 

The scene was just too much for me, and tears came into 
my eyes as I hugged Rhoda. Over and over I assured her I 
would be right back, though deep inside I knew this was the 
blow I had been expecting. But Rhoda' s heart was broken in 
spite of all my assurances. She couldn't be consoled. I think 
that somehow — in a child's own way — she knew she 
might never see her father again. With tears quietly brim- 
ming in my eyes I kissed Ruth and Rhoda good-by, knowing 
that I might never see them again. 



Through all this my little son Paul slept and I never had a 
chance to say good-by to him. Ruth told me later she fell on 
her knees after we left and tearfully prayed that I would be 
returned before nightfall. After two or three hours she was 
visited by Pastor ManolofTs wife who told her that her 
husband had also been taken away. 

Walking to the police station between the three men 
around 7 a.m., I held my head high. As the four-man 
' 'parade' * walked down the street, I could feel the eyes of my 
friends, neighbors and church members on me. I knew that 
since my conversion I had served only God and I was in 
God's hands. From the depths of my heart I cried out to God, 
asking for His grace to endure whatever was before me. 

At the police station I was searched from head to toe and 
then locked in a cell. Inside I found another man, an Arme- 
nian. The cell was filthy and littered with paper and rubbish. 
In one corner stood an old cracked clay pot which served as 
our * 'toilet." It was overflowing and the stench from it was 
terrible. I paced back and forth from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. , deeply 
concerned about Ruth, Rhoda and Paul. 



The Endless Nights Begin 

At eight o'clock that evening, my cell door opened and a 
young man commanded me to accompany him. He took me 
down to the second floor to a beautifully furnished office 
where he introduced me to another young man. I was told he 
was to be addressed as "Mr. Inspector." I stood in front of 
"Mr. Inspector," and he fired his first question at me. 

"Do you know the difference between the militia and 
the police?" 

I thought the question was a joke, and said, "No, I 
don't. I have never been interested in such police matters." 
My reply irritated him and he shouted, "Don't play games 
with me, Prisoner Popov. Stand facing that wall and don't 
move!" 

This sounds like a light punishment, but I can assure you 
it is most tiring and painful to the whole body, especially to 
the small of the back. 

10 



* *Mr. Inspector' ' continued to ask me the same question 
from 8 p.m. to midnight as I stood stiffly. Every 5 or 10 
minutes the question was repeated: "Do you know the differ- 
ence between the militia and the police?'' I tried to explain I 
didn't know. When I saw that I was getting nowhere I 
stopped answering, He screamed, "We'll teach you a lesson! 
Hold your arms straight up and don't move a muscle!" 

Finally, around midnight, "Mr. Inspector" said, k I 
will tell you the difference between the militia and the police. 
Police are employed to guard the interests of the rich 
capitalists and the militia guards the interest of the honest 
working people." I was then allowed to lower my arms. 

It was a hard "lesson" in communist semantics I had 
learned! 

My arms felt as heavy as logs. I was then asked another 
question. "State just why you are here." I answered that 
three men had come to my home that morning and brought 
me there. I had been in a cell all day and no one had told me 
anything. "No," he replied, "you know why you are here." 

1 * But I don ' t know for sure , " I answered , though I had a 
very good idea. 

After he had repeated the question for an hour, the 
"inspector" said, "I am going now. Stand there until morn- 
ing. I'll return for your answer tomorrow morning and we'll 
see if you're any smarter by then." 

He left me in the care of the young man named Jordan 
who had brought me from my cell. Jordan spent the night 
sitting in a chair behind me while I stood facing the wall. 
Little did I know I was not only facing one night "at the 
wall," but would later be forced to stand for two weeks! 

The last hours of the night between 3 and 7a.m. were 
the most difficult. After standing with my face to the wall all 
night without a wink of sleep, these hours seemed as long as 
eternity. At last dawn came and Jordan took me back to the 
ceil. The Armenian wanted to give me something to eat but I 
preferred to stretch out on the board bunk and rest. I was so 
tired I wanted only to sleep, but the swarming bedbugs and 
assorted other crawling things kept me awake. Before I knew 
it my body was covered with the creatures and it was impos- 
sible to sleep. I had to get up and pace back and forth. Later I 

11 



heard rumor the cells were purposely infested with bedbugs, 
lice and vermin to make it worse for the prisoner. I never 
found out if this was true, but I suspect it was. There were 
armies of them. 

It was now Sunday, July 25, and for the first time in 
many years I did not spend Sunday in a church. In my cell I 
knelt and my thoughts went out to my brothers and sisters in 
Christ who would be at worship at this moment. I prayed for 
my children and for my wife, whom I had left without money 
or food. How I would have loved to be with them! I asked the 
Lord to take care of them in the future whatever it held. I 
knew that the Great Persecution had begun for the sake of 
Christ. All down through Christian history this had happened 
again and again, and I prayed from deep within that God 
would give me strength to measure up to the disciples and 
martyrs of the Early Church. I surely couldn't do it on my 
own. A cricket sang from somewhere amongst the rotten 
floorboards of the cell block and my downtrodden soul was 
lifted up and my faith in God renewed. 

The all-night interrogations continued for a week. The 
pattern was always the same. As soon as it was dark I was 
taken downstairs and made to stand exactly eight inches from 
the wall. There, from 7 p.m. until about 8 the next morning I 
was questioned and not permitted to close my eyes. If my 
eyes nodded, Jordan would leap up shouting, "Stop! Stop! 
That's not allowed." In the daytime I fought the swarming 
bedbugs so I had no chance to rest then either. No one was 
given any food in the prison, but my wife managed to find out 
where I was and sent food from home. I wanted desperately 
to see my family, to know how they were, but was not 
allowed to do so. 

On Saturday night, no one came to take me downstairs. 
But around midnight I heard a key in the lock and an unfamil- 
iar voice shouted, "Popov, getouthere! You're being trans- 
ferred." 

I said good-by to the Armenian. We had become fast 
friends and I discovered in the year ahead close and true 
friendships developed between prisoners who shared com- 
mon sufferings. 

12 



The police led me outside where a police car, commonly 
nicknamed "Black Raven," was waiting with two police- 
men in it. We drove off down the main street of Sofia and 
only minutes after we started we arrived at a big white 
building. It was the headquarters of the "DS" — the 
dreaded Secret Police. 



"Welcome to the White House, Prisoner Popov' 



The Secret Police was called Dershavna Sigornost, or 
DS. It was headquartered in a large white building 
nicknamed by the people, * 'The White House. ' ' But I assure 
you this "White House" was very different from the Ameri- 
can White House! Many of our country's finest men have 
gone into the "White House" and have never come out alive. 
It was rumored that the "White House" even had its own 
subterranean "graveyard" for disposal of bodies of its vic- 
tims. 

To the people of Bulgaria the name DS meant disap- 
pearance, suffering and death. Over one cell door was written 
a quotation from Dante's The Divine Comedy: "All hope 
abandon, ye who enter here." How appropriate! More 
people have died here than have come out alive, and those 
who survive do not live very long because of the torture to 
which they have been subjected. There was talk that people 
who passed the DS building could hear screams coming up 
through the cobblestone street from the sprawling complex of 
subterranean cells below. I later found out this was true. 

When the ' ' Black Raven' ' stopped and I was led into the 
building, fear and insecurity swept over me. It had been a 
week of sleeplessness and interrogation, and my body trem- 
bled and shook. As I was led through the door, the words 
from Psalm 73:28 came to me "... I have put my trust in 
the Lord God. ..." 

I knew I couldn't expect help from anyone else here in 
the "White House." I breathed a silent prayer, "God, my 
life is in Your hands. " My fears began to melt away. I had a 



13 



very strong feeling of peace. The tension in my body was 
gone . Death was perhaps waiting for me in the DS ** White 
House," but my heart praised and worshiped the Lord. 

When a man faces death, he examines himself and 
thinks of how he stands in relation with God. He sees things 
very clearly. I had resigned myself to the thought that my life 
on earth would soon be over and that within a short time I 
would be with the Lord. It was clear to me that I had been 
brought here to die. In the past week I had lost everything that 
was dear to me on earth — my wife, my family, my church, 
my home — but I felt God right beside me as I walked 
through the doors into the DS headquarters. 

The guard looked at me mockingly and said, * * Welcome 
to the White House, Prisoner Popov." Once more I was 
stripped and searched, then led upstairs to the third floor. 
Going up the stairs I noticed a wire net over the stairwell, put 
there so no prisoner could escape the DS by throwing himself 
over the stairs. Evidently so many prisoners had tried to 
commit suicide, this wire net had to be put up to catch them. 

Up on the third floor, I was led down a long dark 
hallway, with grimy barred windows on one side and rows of 
rusty, dark cell doors on the other side. Each cell door had a 
little "Judas hole" with a sliding cover over it. These "Judas 
holes" allowed the guards to watch the prisoners. Barely 
audible moans came from the occupants of the cells. Guards 
had on thick cloth shoes so the prisoners couldn't hear their 
approach. 

But let me tell you how I arrived at this point in my life. . 



A "Hard-Core" Atheist Finds Christ 



I was born and spent my youth in the beautiful little 
town of Krasno Gradiste, in Bulgaria. There were four of us 
children, three brothers and a sister. We were born in an old 
Turkish-built farmhouse, consisting of one room and a kitch- 
en. The ceiling was so low that my father had to duck so as 

14 



not to hit his head on the beams above. The house had a din 
floor, which mother painted with a mixture of manure, clay 
and water. It didn't smell very nice, but it was a disinfectam, 
and the manure kept the floor from cracking. 

We all slept in one room, on the floor covered with rugs 
made of plaited reeds. On one side of the kitchen was the 
large blackened fireplace on which stood an array of sooty, 
cracked clay pots. The beans which mother cooked for us in 
those days were as good as the daily diet of any of the other 
villagers. Mother used to say, "If you want good beans, you 
must cook them in good water." So we children were sent 
down to the river, several hundred yards away, to fetch water 
for the beans. They were then cooked in the clay pot to give 
them a very special flavor. I have many pleasant memories of 
my childhood years. The days went by quickly, some filled 
with laughter and some with wranglings, childish pranks and 
adventures. 

There were days of poverty, hard work and grief in our 
home, but none of these things caused our love for one 
another to diminish. In fact, they drew us closer together. We 
didn't have a big farm, so the children were sent to larger 
farms to work. It was especially difficult for us during the war 
years, 1914 to 1918. Father was called into military service 
and the following year brought us virtual starvation. During 
the winter of 1917- 18, when I was ten years old, I was sent to 
work for the richest man in our village, "Grandpa" Kolyo. I 
received no wages, but in return for food I led the oxen while 
Grandpa, who was 87 but looked and acted much younger, 
ploughed his fields. Then in the summer I tended sheep on 
my uncle's farm nearby. The war ended and my father came 
home. This allowed me to resume my schooling. Even 
though we were very poor, my parents managed to send me 
to a little school in a nearby village. They were very proud of 
my ability to read and did all they could to continue my 
education. I began attending school dressed in patched, 
home- woven clothes and homemade moccasin- like shoes 
made of raw pigskin, with the pig bristles turned out. I looked 
a sight! When I got to the higher classes, I was ashamed that I 
did not have the regulation uniform and nice shoes. The 

15 



result was that I shunned the company of other boys and kept 
mostly to myself. 

I had my first pair of proper shoes when I was 1 7 years of 
age. When I put them on, my self-esteem grew enormously 
(probably too much!) and I began to look for friends among 
my classmates. I grew up as rather egotistical, and as an 
atheist. That's a bad combination! When I finished the town 
school I went to Ruse, a large city on the Danube River, to 
look for work. I knew only one person in Ruse, a former 
neighbor named Christo who had moved there several years 
earlier. Christo had a job at the water works and lived on the 
premises in a little room about six feet square. Although it 
was so small and most of the space was taken up by a bed, he 
agreed to let me share the room and we became close friends. 
This was in November, 1925. At that time there was much 
unemployment in Bulgaria and I couldn't find permanent 
work. I got an occasional job, but mostly lived off the salary 
of my friend, Christo. 

One evening, Christo invited me to go with him to a 
nearby Baptist church, though he knew that I was a con- 
vinced atheist. Because of my friendship with him, it was 
impossible to turn him down. It was my first time in a 
Protestant church. I had known only of the Orthodox Church 
and thought that all churches were alike, so I was surprised to 
find that the interior of the Baptist church was quite different 
from the Orthodox Church. In fact, everything was different! 
The service was conducted in Bulgarian instead of the old 
Slavic language which the priests usually used and which few 
could understand anymore. 

Instead of the monotonous singing of the Orthodox 
mass, I heard beautiful hymns sung to melodies of Bach, 
Mendelssohn, Beethoven and other great composers. Here 
the whole congregation took part; in the Orthodox churches, 
only the priests and the choir sang. 

I even saw songbooks! Christo had already learned the 
songs and sang along while I followed the words in the 
songbook. The beautiful words, written to the praise of God, 
made a deep impression on me. I had never expected to hear 
an educated, intelligent pastor preach so gloriously of his 



16 



faith in God, and in a language I could understand. In our 
neighborhood, there was no intelligent person who dared to 
acknowledge that he believed in God. "Religion" was for 
the old and feeble-minded in my opinion. 

After the meeting we talked with two elderly ladies who 
were known in the city as having a good education. They 
talked to us about God and tried to prove to us that He 
existed, but despite what I had seen and heard in the church 
and all that the ladies had said, my proud intellect refused to 
acknowledge that there was a God. 

For the first time, however, I began to wonder whether 
I was right. 

That night a spiritual struggle began within me that 
lasted many days. The question was: Is there a God? In the 
Greek Orthodox Church of that time the priests didn' t need to 
have any schooling and only old men and women attended 
the services. You never saw any educated people believing in 
God. At least, that was the way we atheists liked to think. We 
who had an education looked down on those "simple" men 
and women who claimed to have "religion" or believed in 
God. And now I heard educated and cultured people openly 
testifying that God exists! They told what Christ meant to 
them and had done for them . This impressed me more than all 
the sermons, and to this day, I am a strong believer in the 
effectiveness of "living testimonies" in bringing men to 

Christ. 

I discussed my conflict with Christo and he said he 
would introduce me to a man who could help me. Shortly 
after, Christo invited a man to visit us. His name was Petroff . 
He read to us from his Bible. He was not an eloquent preacher 
but every word he uttered proved to me that God existed. He 
witnessed of how he knew of God's personal presence. When 
he told of what Christ meant to him, his face shone with the 
love of God. It was obvious to me at that moment that there 
was a God. 

I saw Him in this godly man. 

Petroff s testimony convinced me of God's existence 
and I began earnestly and intensively to seek God. I found 
/ wasn't so much seeking God as God was seeking me. I 



17 



received a wonderful life-changing experience of salvation in 
Jesus Christ, and Petroff became my spiritual father. Shortly 
afterward I went to live with Petroff to be closer to his Bible 
teaching and with his assistance got a job on the State rail- 
ways. The work was heavy, but the joy of my new-found 
salvation in Jesus Christ made me buoyant with joy and 
peace. I was very happy in Christ! 



The Hand of God on a Man 



Each night, Petroff and I would read from the Bible and 
talk together for hours about God's Word. In time others 
joined us until we had quite a little "flock" of believers. 
Gradually our little gathering took the form of a proper 
church and under the deeply spiritual ministry of Petroff we 
were greatly blessed by God. It was February, 1929, when 
Petroff said, "Haralan, God has His hand on you. He wants 
you for His work." I, too had felt His hand upon me and 
leading me in this direction. I deeply loved my new found 
Christ, and prayed all night promising, "God, my entire life 
is Yours. I am ready to give unto You all I have." 

That promise was put to severe testing in the years 
ahead, but I never regretted it. 

To serve Him is wonderful, but to suffer for Him is an 
even higher privilege. 

To prepare myself for Christian service I attended Bible 
Institutes in Danzig and England, where I met a young Bible 
student from Sweden, Her name was Ruth. Like her Bible 
namesake, she was deeply dedicated to the Lord. She said, 
"Haralan, wherever you go, I go also." So I went back to 
Bulgaria not only with a knowledge of God's Word, but with 
a wife as well. 

The years that followed were nothing less than a gift 
from God. A great time of spiritual harvest came to Bulgaria 
and in a few short years I was pastoring the largest church in 
the nation. At the same time, I evangelized across the land. 
God's hand was so abundantly upon all of us and the Word of 

18 



God grew mightily in Bulgaria. For over 16 years I pastored 
my church and "doubled-up" as an evangelist in mountain 
towns and villages where the Word of God had not yet 
secured a foothold. The war years came and things were very 
difficult, but were only a little testing period for the great 
tribulation which lay just ahead of us. 

In 1944, a dark menace came riding into our homeland 
on the heels of the Russian Army: the menace of com- 
munism. The communists slowly gained power while our 
country was lying prostrate at the feet of the Red Army. 

At first the Communist Party was most cooperative with 
other political parties and even formed a coalition govern- 
ment. In three years, the other parties were banned, their 
leaders imprisoned and the Communist Party was in full 
control. 



Bulgaria Becomes "Little Russia' 



We had heard of our fellow-Christians in Russia and 
what they had suffered, but little did we know that Bulgaria 
would become so like Russia it would be — and still is — 
called "Little Russia/' We braced for the worst, but 
strangely the blow we expected did not come. In fact, a 
"twilight" period of religious freedom set in. It wasn't 
because the communists were for religious liberty. It was 
simply that they were too busy consolidating their political 
power and getting everything firmly in hand before turning to 
"deal" with us — as they put it. So instead of the blow we 
expected we suddenly had a great gift from God: three 
years — from 1944 to 1947 — during which God restrained 
their hand and allowed us to work. 

And work we did! Day and night, month after month we 
evangelized, spread the Gospel and built up the faith of the 
believers before the dark night of communism fell upon us. 
As they had warned, we knew the communists would soon 
"deal" with us. Feverishly, with a sense of running out of 
time — we labored and God honored our labors with a great 



19 



time of harvest across Bulgaria. I conducted several mass- 
baptisnis in the Black Sea for the many young people who 
had found Christ. Undoubtedly, our feverish work for Christ 
during this three years "before the storm** caused us to be 
singled out for the "special" treatment which was to follow 
in communist prisons. 

The very intensity of our work during the "calm before 
the storm" made us marked men. We didn't have long. As 
soon as the communists had consolidated their power we 
knew it would be our time. 



Better Spies Than Christian Martyrs 



The first sign that our time had come was a whispering 
campaign to slander the country's leading pastors. Despite 
this campaign, revival spread and new churches formed so 
the government devised a more subtle procedure. Gradually 
the pastors of the churches were taken away and replaced by 
persons who would be "willing tools" in the hands of the 
communists. They concentrated on putting their puppets into 
the pulpits. 

When puppet pastors had been put into many pulpits, 
the next target was chosen: the top Bulgarian church leaders 
from Baptist, Methodist, Congregational, Pentecostal and 
Evangelical denominations. I was one of them. 

A vicious slander campaign started. We were accused 
of being ' 'spies. ' * Better "spies" than Christian martyrs . We 
were described as "instruments of imperialism." At first 
when I heard this I laughed. 

The real truth meant nothing to those who were deter- 
mined to destroy the Christian Church. We, the fifteen lead- 
ers of Bulgaria's Evangelical denominations, were publicly 
named. 

It was obvious that we were not guilty of the charges laid 
against us, but a smear campaign was started to distort all that 
we had said and done in order to blacken us. It was noised 
about through the press and other media that we had betrayed 



20 



our country to the English and the Americans. Thus began 
the campaign that was to lead us into prison and torture. 
During the following thirteen years and two months that I 
spent in prison I often wondered why God allowed such a 
thing to happen. The long period of self-examination helped 
me better to understand the Bible's teaching that we must go 
through suffering to enter the kingdom of God. Paul and 
Barnabas told the disciples in Asia Minor, "we must through 
much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 
14:22). The Apostle Peter says the same thing (I Peter 1:6-7) 
"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if 
need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 
that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of 
gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be 
found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of 
Jesus Christ.' ' 

Man's first natural reaction when looking at suffering is 
to think it is too hard to bear. We try to avoid it, but later we 
find that the suffering becomes of great value and is more 
precious that gold. Suffering was a fire which our churches 
had to undergo so that all that was hay and stubble would be 
burned up, leaving the pure gold shining more brightly than 
ever. In the process the "structure" of the church would be 
destroyed or subverted, but there would remain a true, living 
Church, the Body of Christ, the Suffering Church. 

This was all just ahead of us. 

These were the events that had led me from being an 
ardent atheist to my position now as a pastor facing torture for 
Christ in the dreaded "White House." 



The Cell Walls Speak 



I was led down the corridor to cell number 21 . The big 
key rattled in the lock and I was shoved in and once more was 
cut off from the outside world. In the cell was a young man 
named Tsonny. He told me he had been there for 3 months 



21 



and was never given any reason for his imprisonment. In a 
corner of the cell was the bucket which for the next six 
months was our toilet. These buckets were a standard feature 
of prison life. They were emptied only rarely and sometimes 
overflowed. Often they took away the lid and the foul smell 
was overwhelming. There was only the bare cement floor on 
which to sleep and the walls were of grimy stone. They were 
cluttered with mottoes, prayers, slogans and quotations 
scratched into the surface with some hard object by previous 
occupants. 

The walls were almost like a "diary" or chronicle of 
condemned men. In places the walls seemed to be painted 
dark red, but on closer examination I found the red wasn't 
paint. It was the blood of countless bedbugs which had been 
killed by former prisoners as the insects crawled up the wall. 
The "red walls'* of other such cells were also to become 
common sights in the years ahead. The first night in the DS I 
killed 539 bedbugs, many after they had taken blood from 
me. To help take our minds off our situation T sonny and I 
counted them. (We never tried that again!) 

On the walls one could read about many of the afflic- 
tions and longings of former inmates. I could almost tell their 
personalities, their nightmares, their hopes, their dreams, 
reflected in these sad etchings. One etching read, "When you 
enter here believe in God and pray to Saint Theresa/' evi- 
dently written by a Catholic. A Pushkin Elegy was written in 
Russian the full length of the wall. It contained three verses 
which I memorized. Above the door someone had scratched 
an old Latin proverb, "Dumspirospero," whichmeans "As 
long as I breathe, I hope. ' ' I felt I knew the former inhabitants 
of that cell by their scratchings on the wall. 

What stories of human bravery, despair and crushed 
dreams I saw on this cell wall and countless others during 13 
years! 

I made it a practice to scratch Bible verses and words of 
comfort on the walls of every cell I occupied, hoping those 
words would bring comfort and help to the next occupant. 
Cell walls were not only the "paper" on which I scratched 
Bible verses, but later were the "sounding board" for the 



22 



"Prison Telegraph" on which I tapped the Word of God to 
the men in the adjacent cells. 

How wonderful and just, I thought, that walls built to 
imprison men would become "paper" for the Word of God 
and the "wire" for the Prison Telegraph to send forth the 
Good News. But because this was the first time I had experi- 
enced such an ordeal, and because the first week had been 
such a shattering time, it was difficult for me to keep up my 
courage. 

All prisoners will tell you that the first few months are 
always the worst. I said to myself, If the man who scratched 
into the wall the words, "As long as I breathe, I hope," 
could keep hope alive, surely I as a believer can put my life 
entirely in the hands of God. I gave myself a "lecture" and 
felt better. Even though I didn't know what the day would 
bring I had assurance, serenity and peace in my heart. Like 
Paul I was determined that "in whatever state I am, therewith 
to be content." 

I spent exactly five months in cell number 21, from 
August 1 to December 31 . Cell 21 in the DS "White House" 
became a "chamber of suffering" for me. Every time I think 
of it today the cold chills run up my spine. In 2 Corinthians 
12:4, the Apostle Paul speaks about "unspeakable words, 
which it is not lawful for a man to utter." However, I should 
like to tell about the unspeakable suffering which is difficult 
to express with the human tongue or to put into writing. 

Since I was exhausted from standing on my feet every 
night for a week, I lay on the bare floor and stretched out. All 
of a sudden there was a loud, cracking sound like automatic 
rifle fire coming down the corridor. "What was that?" I 
asked Tsonny . He smiled and explained that it had been done 
intentionally by the guards to scare the prisoners and prevent 
them from sleeping. The sound was caused by hitting sharply 
on the cell doors with an iron bar, making sounds like loud 
rifle shots. It was repeated every ten minutes throughout that 
night and every night for five months. It was almost impossi- 
ble to sleep and that's exactly what was intended. 

On the morning of August 2, 1 was taken from my cell to 
a comfortable office on the ground floor. To my great as- 

23 



tonishment I found there a young man whom I knew very 
well. His name was Veltcho Tchankov. My heart leaped for 
joy when I saw Veltcho ! I had known him since he was a boy 
I knew also that he was a communist. When the com- 
munists had come to Bulgaria on the heels of the Red Army in 
1944, Veltcho had joined them immediately. In the three 
years since, he had become the Chief of the Secret Police in 
Burgas. Despite the differences in our ways of life, we had 
long seemed to hold a kind of mutual respect for each other. 
So I was glad to see him again and thought this was the first 
ray of hope since my arrest. But how Veltcho had changed! A 
month later I learned that Veltcho , my ' * old friend , ' ' was the 
one who had staged the whole campaign against all the 
evangelical pastors! I saw what power can do to a man. 

The communists when out of power are often congenial , 
cooperative and mild. But let them gain power and you will 
see what they are really like! Let those who "play" with 
communism remember the lesson of Veltcho, the "kind" 
communist who gained power. 

Communist parties out of power purposely seem 
"reasonable" and kind, but let them come to power and their 
true nature will be revealed. The prisons were full of men 
who thought the communists were just another political par- 
ty. Many of the people who said they were "just another 
political party" and tolerated communists were executed 
when the communists took over. Let the Western countries 
who tolerate communist parties beware! Those "little" par- 
ties may seem mild now, but if they gain power, you will see 
their true nature just as we did! 

I said, " Veltcho, it's so good to see you again." He 
looked at me with hostility and said, "We know each other, 
Popov, and I warn you if you want to see your wife again you 
must do exactly as I say." 

"But what have I done, Veltcho?" 

He shouted back, "Never call me Veltcho again. I am 
Comrade Tchankov and you are Prisoner Popov. Never 
forget that!" 

He went on, "You must criticize your crimes. If you 
confess it will be much easier for you. The People's Gov- 

24 



eminent is very lenient and we will forgive all your crimes. 
We know you are a good person, but you must conform to us 
and the new society we are building." 

These words, "conform to us," I heard the whole 
thirteen years. 

Then a torrent of words poured forth from Veltcho's 
lips: 

1 'I repeat, you must conform and confess your crimes ! ' * 
he shouted. * 'If you refuse to obey me, you will be making 
the greatest mistake of your life and will live to regret it. You 
will learn we don't play around, and we aren't going to let 
you be a religious martyr. You would like that, wouldn't 
you, Popov? Well, we're not going to give you that chance. 
If we made you a religious martyr it would only make the 
Christians stronger. We're not about to let that happen. Do 
you think we are stupid? We're going to slander and blacken 
you until even the Christians will say your name in disgust. ' ' 

I was stunned by Veltcho's words. His plan was satani- 
cally clever and he spoke like an inspired man. 

I replied, "The people of Bulgaria know me. They will 
know the real reason." He only laughed. Only later did I 
realize I was up against specialists at making black look 
white, and truth look false. 

The Nazis were cruel, but the communists were cruel 
and satanically clever. That is the only real difference be- 
tween the Nazis and communists in practice. Veltcho's 
threats were later carried out with mathematical precision, 
point by point. 

Veltcho ordered me back to my cell. I went in utter 
despair and told Tsonny about my conversation with Vel- 
tcho. He advised me never to confess to anything I hadn't 
done. The advice was good, but impossible to carry out 
during the following months. 

I sat in my cell in semi-shock. I had thought the com- 
munists were just misguided men. But this encounter with 
Veltcho shook me deeply. I realized I was up against the 
cleverness and evil of Satan himself. For the first time the 
enormity of what I faced and the cunning of these satanically 
inspired men hit me. 



25 



The "Death Diet" 



It started with starvation. The feelings of starvation 

— like the feelings of love — are impossible to describe. 

daily food ration was two slices of bread and six table - 

oos of "soup" which was really flavored water, slimy 

I putrid. The diet was carefully and scientifically designed 

to barely sustain life — nothing more. The prisoners called it 

'the Death Diet." It consisted mainly of water and was 

enough only to maintain a weak pulse. At the same time, it 

was enough to stimulate the gastric juices, causing one to feel 

hunger more acutely than if he had nothing to eat at all. 

If a person doesn't eat at all he gradually dies, but his taste 

bods are dormant and he is mercifully spared the hellish 

pangs of hunger. I wasn't spared. The two slices of bread and 

'ablespoons of "soup" came at 6 p.m. They were gone 

a o minutes and there was no more food until the next day 

at 6 p.m. The goal was to "break" me and I confess that 

starvation is a horrible and effective tool. The hunger made 

body feel as if it had malarial fever. These feelings were 

with me day and night for the next five years. 

It must be understood that the communists were not 
attempting to "brain-wash" me. They knew they could 
er accomplish this. Brain-washing means to completely 
and permanently change a person's mind and make his mind 
. r to be totally dedicated to another and different way of 
thinking. The communists knew they could never do this 
with me and they didn't try. 

They were out to break my will — bludgeoning, bat- 
tering, torturing, abusing and starving me to the point where 
my will was totally broken and just collapsed. They knew 
that after my will was totally broken and they had what they 
wanted from .me, I would regain my will and come back to 
myself. Thus, their tactic was not to brain- wash me, but to so 
batter and drive me beyond human endurance that temporar- 
l would simply lose my will. Brain- washing calls for 
alternating between good and bad treatment. Destroying a 



26 



person's will is simpler — it requires only brutal, unrelent- 
ing beatings, starvation and torture building up to a rising 
peak and crescendo of horror where a person no longer has a 
will of his own. This was their tactic . . . and they began it 
with a fury and brutality. 

Starvation, sleeplessness and standing with one's face 
toward the wall week after week are the chief 4 tools'* in 
breaking a man's will. This treatment can transform an 
intelligent and rational person into an animal. The only thing 
that remains after such treatment is the animal's instinct to 
look for something to eat. My guard used to say that I "must 
become stiller than water and lower than grass." 



The Punishment Cell 



On August 5, under the "death diet" I was put into 
solitary confinement and subjected to a 24-hour- a-day, non- 
stop interrogation. I had three interrogators, each one work- 
ing an eight hour shift. This allowed them to keep up the 
physical and psychological torture 24 hours a day. This 
solitary confinement cell had one very unusual feature. The 
wall was shiny white, painted with a white high gloss enamel 
paint. I was ordered to stand facing the glaring white wall at a 
distance of eight inches and to keep my eyes open — wide 
open. My interrogator began to shout — 

"You must not move one inch!" 

'You must not close your eyes for one moment!" 

"You must not shift your weight!" 

"You must not move a muscle!" 

"You must not . . . You must not . . . "on and on he 
ranted as I stood at the wall. After only a few moments my 
eyes burned like hot irons werein them. At 8 inches I was so 
close to the glaring white enamelled wall my eyes couldn't 
focus. I suggest that my readers try this for only a moment. 
One's eyes rebel. They fight to close or to focus and they 
can't. It is terribly painful and yet when I merely blinked, my 



27 



interrogator struck me across the side of my face. 

The pain in my eyes became unbearable. 'Tell me 
about your spy activities!" shouted the interrogator. 

"lama pastor, ' ' I replied, * 'I have worked for Christ all 
my life. I have never spied/' The interrogator gave me 
another blow to the side of my head. My ear rang from the 
impact of the blow and again he shouted, "Tell me how you 
spied for the Americans!'* 

Again, I replied, "I am a pastor, a servant of God. I 
have only worked for God. I don't know anything about your 
spy charges." 

Later, as the years of brutality passed, I became 
hardened to such beatings and they affected me only physi- 
cally. But then early in my imprisonment these blows af- 
fected me and disoriented me, psychologically as well as 
physically. 

The interrogator who beat me was a big, grim man. In 
the years ahead, I had time to reflect on these guards and 
interrogators. I always tried to pray the most for a guard 
while he was beating me. I realized that in one sense they 
were sadder cases than those of us they beat. 

What a tragedy was theirs! 

Step by step, as they brutalized prisoners and beat us, 
they descended down the ladder of humanity to the level of 
beasts. Their faces, after a time, defied description and they 
became like animals. 

We prisoners would eventually recover, but the guards 
suffered a permanent crippling of their humanity. Thus, 
during the beatings I tried to keep my perspective and prayed 
for them. I found that it actually eased the pain of the blows. 

"Tell me about your spy work!" screamed the inter- 
rogator. "I am a pastor, I — " and before I could finish the 
sentence another ringing blow hit the side of my face. A 
pattern emerged during that first long day. I was forced to 
stand absolutely still, not moving a muscle, my eyes burning 
like balls of fire staring at the shiny white wall 8 inches in 
front of me. From behind me the voice of my interrogator 



28 



would shout, "Tell us about your spy activities!" I would 
reply, **I am only a pastor. I have never done anything but 
preach the Gospel . * ' 

A ringing blow to my head followed, then several min- 
utes of silence. Then again the question, again my reply and 
again the blow to my head. As the hours passed, the ques- 
tions came less frequently and I wondered why the inter- 
rogator waited so long between questions. After an hour or 
two it dawned on me; time itself was their weapon. Time was 
on their side and they counted on its wearing effect to wear 
me down. Hour after hour that first day, the pattern of 
question, answer, blow, pause, question, answer, blow, 
continued. I lost all track of time. I had only the terrible 
burning in my eyes and to close them for only a minute 
became an obsession with me. My body went numb. I lost all 
sense of time and was jarred into reality only by the different 
sound of the new interrogator's voice, signaling that 8 hours 
had passed and a new shift had begun. 

Now the pauses between questions were longer, as long 
as an hour. They were in no hurry. The night came and 
passed like an eternity. Sleep weighted my eyelids, but even 
a brief closure would bring a blow. My legs ached . My whole 
body rebelled, yet I could not move a muscle. Everything 
became hazy and time itself seemed to cease. 

Dazed, I suddenly heard the sharp, fresh voice of my 
first interrogator shouting, "So, Popov, you are still here! 
Well, I am rested. We shall start again!" Then it struck nae. 
A full day had passed and the first of my three interrogators 
was back on duty again. 

Hunger welled up in my stomach. I had been starved 
before, given only crumbs of bread, but now I didn't even 
have crumbs. When 1 had received them the crumbs had 
seemed so little. Now with nothing even the crumbs seemed 
like a feast! 



29 



The Fourth Day at the Wall 

Hour after hour passed. Day after day came and went. 
The time from midnight to morning was the worst. I had now 
not slept, not eaten, not moved for four days. The inter- 
rogator watched especially carefully to catch me when my 
head nodded or my eyes closed. They took special delight in 
catching a twitching muscle or a blinking eye as an excuse for 
a blow. Also, they wore felt shoes so I couldn't tell whether 
they were just behind me or across the room. 

On the fourth day my hunger left and deep thirst took 
over. The blood began to settle in my legs and they began to 
swell up. My lips were dry, cracked and bleeding. Then 
another dimension of punishment took place. The inter- 
rogators began to eat noisily and drink water close to me to 
increase my thirst. The torture was not only physical, but also 
very much mental. 

The deep, burning thirst was like nothing I have ever 
experienced or heard about before. It was like a fiery ball of 
lava burning in my stomach and parching my lips. 

A deep fever consumed and wracked my body. Dehyd- 
ration set in and the agony became almost unbearable. To this 
day when I read of a man dying of thirst in the desert, the 
all-consuming pangs of thirst hit me again and wherever I am 
I must go and drink deeply of water. 

Another enjoyed drinking water a few feet away from 
me and one twitch of my parched, cracked lips, and without 
warning I was hit. 

The thirst raged on within me like a raging fever. To this 
day I can't explain how I stayed on my feet through those 
days and nights. It had to be God with me, for no man has the 
strength in himself. 

Slowly, the questioning stopped. It became a waiting 
game, my interrogators waiting for my collapse. In my 
feverish condition, I began having hallucinations. Little 
spots on the white wall in front of me came alive. I saw faces 
of people, of Ruth and Paul and Rhoda, then of the guards. 
Swirling patterns of blazing color were like a mad kaleido- 
scope in front of me. I was certain 1 was going mad, 

30 



The Tenth Day 

Still the collapse didn't come. I lost all track of time. 
One day blurred into another. My swollen legs became huge, 
engorged with blood from complete immobility. My lips 
were cracked wide open and bleeding. My beard was long, 
for I had not been allowed to wash nor shave since the day I 
was arrested. My eyes were balls of fire. Yet, somehow I 
stood. On the tenth night, sometime after midnight I heard 
my interrogator snoring as he dozed off. I moved my stiff 
neck to the right and left. Off to the left about six feet away 
there was a window. Since it was dark outside I could see a 
reflection in the window, like a mirror. I recoiled in horror. 
It was a monster s reflection*. I saw a horrible emaciated 
figure, legs swollen, eyes like empty holes in the head, with a 
long beard covered with dried blood from cracked, bleeding 
and hideously swollen lips. 

It was a grotesque, horrible figure. I was repulsed by it. 

Suddenly, it struck me. That horrible, bleeding gro- 
tesque figure was me I That " monster" was me. 

My numbed mind slowly absorbed this fact and tears 
came into my eyes. Suddenly, I felt crushed, so alone, so by 
myself. I felt as Christ must have when He cried, "My God, 
my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' ' I couldn't weep tears, 
but my body heaved with unwept tears. Then, in that moment 
of total, crushing hopelessness, I heard a voice as clear and 
distinct as any voice I have ever heard in my life. It said, **I 
will never leave you nor forsake you. ..." 

It was so audible I dared to glance to my dozing inter- 
rogator, certain he had heard it, too, but he slept on. 

The presence of God filled the Punishment Cell and 
enveloped me in a divine warmth, infusing strength into the 
shell that was my body. 

It had a definite, startling physical effect on me. 

My interrogator awoke with a start. He came over next 
to me and could sense something had happened. He didn't 
know what, but he was so aware of the difference he rushed 
out and returned with another officer. They couldn't under- 
stand it. I heard the anxious, whispered voices of the inter- 

31 



rogators behind me, trying to figure out what happened. I 
seemed to be so fresh and alive, infused with a new strength. 
I have never felt closer to God in my life than at that moment. 
He became so close to me, my heart longed to see Him. I had 
felt the presence of God so close and it was wonderful, 
superior to any feeling I have ever had. It was like a foretaste 
of what being with God in eternity will be like and I didn't 
want to go back. 

I prayed for death. I longed for death. It was a welcome 
door by which I would see the Christ whom I had loved and 
served so long. 

The Fourteenth Day 

The presence of God buoyed me up for a long time, but 
on the fourteenth day the total starvation, thirst and burning 
fire in my eyes became too much. 1 was clearly dying. I felt 
detached. So this is what it's like to die, I thought. 

Any minute I shall see Christ. 

The guard saw that something was happening and 
rushed out, returning with a doctor. The doctor took one look 
at me and said to the officer, "This man is dying." Their 
voices seemed as though they came from a far distance. They 
evidently weren't ready for me to die yet, because I felt 
myself being moved. What must have been an hour later, I 
came to in my cell. From the look of horror on Tsonny 's face, 
I must have looked hideous. I couldn't move. My legs were 
swollen up like an elephant's legs. My lips were cracked 
open and bleeding. My-eyes were deep black holes in my 
head, the pupils flaming red. For a week I couldn't focus my 
eyes or use them properly. As consciousness slowly re- 
turned, Tsonny told me the date. I couldn't believe it. I had 
been standing for 14 days! I cannot explain how it was 
possible. Later that day , they brought me food, water and let 
me rest. Painfully, my cellmate helped me lift my huge 
swollen legs high and propped them up against the wall so the 
blood would run down. I fell into a deep sleep. I thought the 
worst was over. 

It wasn't. 

The next night, after midnight, I was again called down 

32 



for questioning, this time by an officer named Eleas. There 
were four or five others waiting for me in the room. As I 
stepped in I was met with jeering, scoffing and humiliation. 
Then they started hitting me. I swayed across the room and 
fell, was dragged up again and hit some more. Obviously 
they had decided to add more physical torture to the mental 
torture. 

During all these things, I remained silent. Even though I 
had gained a little strength from my rest I was still very weak 
and the least shove would make me fall. They didn't hit me 
hard, for that would have knocked me unconscious. Finally, 
Eleas loaded his pistol, grabbed me by the collar, and half- 
dragged me out into the corridor. I was bleeding profusely 
from my nose. It was pitch dark. He pushed me ahead of him 
to the end of the corridor where there was a dim light burning. 
He kept his pistol pressed against my back all the time. When 
we reached the light he shouted, "Stop! Face the wall." 

I turned to the usual position, noticing spattered blood 
and chips in the plaster from impacted bullets. Obviously, 
this remote, dark end of a subterranean corridor was where 
many others had met their deaths. Eleas turned off the light. It 
was cold and pitch dark. Death hung heavy in the dank air. 
Eleas pressed the pistol into the back of my neck. 

4 ' Popov," he said, "we've had enough of your stub- 
bornness. This is your last night. You must die because of 
your stubbornness in refusing to confess your espionage. I 
am giving you your last and final chance. While I count to 
five you may think it over, and confess that you are a spy. If 
you are sensible you may live, but if you are not I will shoot 
you at the count of five." 

I was sure he was going to shoot me, for thousands of 
others had been shot in the DS White House before me. I 
knew these people carried out their threats. 

The thought of death as a bridge to eternity flashed 
across my mind. I would see Jesus! I was filled with certainty 
that this hellish torment would soon be over. It was as if 
eternity had already begun for me and only the formality of 
death remained. Mentally, I was prepared and was already 
"with Christ." I waited only for the shot to go off, and I 

33 



would be taken up on angels' wings to Heaven — to Jesus, 
my Savior. There was such a longing in my heart in that 
magnificent moment to see Jesus. How appealing this was for 
me. All this torture ended. To see Him! To be with Christ! 

Many people don't like to think about death. They fear 
and tremble at the word ** death" and see death as a forbid- 
ding black figure. Why do people fear death? First, because 
they don't believe in God. For those who have not accepted 
Christ as their Savior death is the most terrible experience 
there is. People fear death because they are not sure of their 
salvation. Their sin makes them conscious that there is some 
accountability after death. 

But for a person who believes in Jesus and is sure of his 
faith and salvation through the cleansing blood of Christ, 
there is no death. We do not believe in death, because there is 
no death for those who are in Christ Jesus. In John 11:26, 
Jesus said to Martha, the sister of the dead Lazarus, 
* . . . whosoever liveth and belie veth in me shall never 
die." After that He asked her a remarkable question: "Be- 
lie vest thou this?" 

If there is one certainty in this uncertain world it is the 
Word, of God. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but the 
Word of God shall never pass away. Up to now, I had never 
imagined what death would be like, but for me death was not 
a dark spectre, but an angel come to liberate me. Death to me 
does not appear dark and grim. It is full of light and gladness, 
for Revelation 14:13 says, " . . . Blessed are the dead 
which die in the Lord from henceforth. ' ' And Psalm 1 16: 15 
tells us, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his 
saints." Truly, for those who are saved, death is not only a 
gateway to heaven but also a triumphal arch through which 
we march with victorious joy and a glorious song. 

Eleas began to count slowly, pausing a long while 
between each number to give me a chance to blurt out my 
confession. "One ..." a long pause, "... two . . . ' 
another long pause, "... three ..." he counted very 
slowly, all the while pressing the pistol to my head so I could 
feel it. He believed that I would be afraid of deatl}. But Eleas 
couldn't see what was going on inside me! He didn't know 

34 



that I was waiting for the moment when I would see my 
Master, whom I loved more than anything else, whom I had 
served and about whom I had preached. 

When Eleas continued with a long, drawn-out f-o-u-r, 
something almost unbelievable happened. The Holy Spirit 
came upon me in a greater measure than ever before. It 
happened to me as it did to Gideon in Judges 6:34: "But the 
Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon. ..." I became as 
courageous as Gideon and as strong as Samson. I do not see 
myself as a courageous man. But Gideon's God is my God, 
and was with me in that dark corridor. Eleas paused after 
counting to * ' four. ' ' But he paused too long for me . I heard a 
voice coming from deep within me — fearless, strong, de- 
manding. It shouted, "Don't wait -Don't wait! Shoot me 
straight in the head!" Eleas jumped back in panic and fear. 
He hadn't expected this, and neither had I! 

He couldn't understand (nor could I) where my strength 
had come from! I had been so weak and exhausted that I 
could hardly walk. But Eleas was even more surprised than I 
was. I braced myself for the bullet, but instead I felt a 
cracking blow on the back of my head. In that fleeting 
moment before unconsciousness swept over me, I realized 
Eleas had intended only to bluff me into a confession, not to 
kill me. A pain of disappointment — so real it was 
physical — welled up in my heart, far greater than the pain 
splitting my head. 

I was so deeply, deeply disappointed. I was ready to 
meet death, but I was still in this life. I was so ready to be with 
Christ, but I was still with Eleas. Why had death been denied 
me? Before unconsciousness swept over me, I cried out 
within my heart, "God, I was faithful to the death, but death 
didn't come." 

I was taken back to my cell and thrown into it uncon- 
scious. 

As I came to, Tsonny had pulled me over against the 
wall and was wiping the blood from the back of my head. To 
be so close to God, and to awaken back in the DS cell! It was 
a crushing disappointment, but I breathed a prayer, "Lord, 
not my will, but Thy will be done, ' ' I fell into a deep and long 

35 



sleep. 

Later, the cell door was opened and a new prisoner was 
let in. He sat in a corner of the cell as if he was ashamed and 
said not a word. Gradually, he became more talkative. He 
said his name was Nickolai Gantchef , that he had served for 
many years in the royal palace guard of our previous King 
Boris, and that he was now arrested on charges of being a 
monarchist and of taking part in some conspiracy or another. 

Tsonny was suspicious of him, but I, in my naivete and 
still suffering from the beating, believed all he said was true. 
I later learned that this man had been placed in our cell to spy 
on Tsonny and me. 

Shortly afterward, Tsonny was taken from the cell. A 
year later I met him again in another prison and he told me 
that Nickolai had gone to the leaders and said that Tsonny 
was wise to him and suspected him and they ought to remove 
Tsonny from the cell so he could get on with his job of 
helping break me. 

Nickolai and I were left alone in the cell, and he picked 
up much information about me, which I, in my innocence, 
gave him. Later, I became aware of fellow prisoners who 
were forced to spy on their cellmates through threats of harm 
to their families. I later realized Nickolai 's downcast look 
when we first met was from shame. But the Secret Police 
quickly learned a prisoner's most vulnerable points — his 
children, his wife, for example, and used it without mercy. 

Nickolai 's job was to find my vulnerable point. He 
quickly found it. It was, of course, my wife and children. I 
was worried sick about them. Ruth was all alone, with two 
babies to feed and care for, and here I was, powerless to help. 

But even those informers I met in prison and who at 
times caused me much punishment, I tried to love and under- 
stand rather than hate. They, too, were victims like me. 
Pathetically, prisoners often tried to speak harshly about their 
own wives and children so the Secret Police would think they 
didn't care about their families, and thus would leave them 
unharmed and in peace. 

Many times I have heard men curse their wives and 
children as though they didn't care — then turn, bury their 

36 



faces in their hands and shake with weeping. 

Informers were found not only in places where systema- 
tic campaigns were planned (such as the one against me); 
they were everywhere, in prisons, camps, homes, places of 
employment, and even in the congregations of churches. To 
improve their own situation in prisons and to lessen their own 
suffering, many prisoners made themselves available as in- 
formers. The communists cannot sleep calmly if they don't 
know about everyone — such as who thinks what about 
them, or who says what about them. Consequently, in all 
Bulgaria there was hardly a cell, a block, or a place of 
employment, or a church which didn't have an informer who 
reported what was said. It is just as bad today. 

Preaching the Gospel to the Secret Police 

At the beginning of September, 1948 , 1 was turned over 
to a lawyer named Peter Manoff, who was to conduct the 
interrogation until I * 'confessed. * * Every night I was ordered 
to write down information about myself, my work, friends, 
friends of friends — everything they wanted to know about 
me. 

It seemed harmless and it would give me a chance to 
rest, so I started writing. I decided I would weave in a 
testimony of Christ in every possible place, with the slightest 
opening. They especially wanted me to write about every- 
thing that happened in my life. That suited me just fine. It 
gave me so many chances to tell my interrogators what Christ 
meant to me 1 1 knew they had to read what I wrote, so I filled 
it all with the Word of God and my testimony. 

Manoff was busy the whole day in court as a prosecutor 
and came in the evening to give me new assignments and 
appoint a new guard. The only sleep I was able to get during 
the whole month were short "cat naps." I was allowed to 
come back to the cell each morning, at noon and again in the 
evening, perhaps for fifteen minutes at a time. I received my 
ten ounces of bread and the flavored water they called 
"soup" every day. 

I used this short time to rest and sleep a little. 

37 



I was extremely weak because of lack of sleep and 
undernourishment. 

It would be interesting to read what I wrote during these 
nights. I must have written over 2,000 pages in all, often up 
to 40 pages in a single night! 

Every night I was given a subject on which to write. It 
became a game with me to take the assigned subject and find 
a logical way to weave in a testimony about Christ. I really 
became quite good at this. 

Whatever subject they gave me, I found a way of getting 
in a testimony! I don't think they appreciated it, but it was so 
carefully woven in, it seemed in place and a part of the 
whole. It infuriated them, but after all, Christ had been a part 
of my daily life since I was converted. And though they hated 
it, it was God's Word and they, of all people, needed God's 
Word. 

One of the best chances came when they ordered me to 
write on my Bible training at Danzig — which teachers and 
friends I had there, what courses they taught. That really was 
an opportunity! I gave the lessons in detail, just as my 
instructors had taught me. I imagine these were the first 
communist interrogators to have Bible lessons! Then they 
asked about my Bible School days in London. I really plowed 
into that with relish. Here I was, in a communist prison, 
using communist paper and communist ink to tell com- 
munists the Word of God which I had been taught! They had 
said, " Popov, we want all the details!" And I gave ihcmall 
the details! Those were some of the most wonderful days I 
had in prison. Telling about the Bible classes, brought it all 
fresh back to my mind. 

One day, they said to me, " Popov, enough is enough. 
We don't want to know any more about your Bible School 
life and your fairy-tale God!" But, thank God by this time, 
they had been exposed to His Word, like it or not. They 
ordered me to stick to the situation in Bulgaria. Always, I 
tried to find a way to come right back to the Word of God and 
what the Lord meant to me . I really 4 ' stretched' * some points , 
but I usually managed to get in my "Gospel message." I 
often wonder how many communists my message reached. 

38 



But they were smart also. The sheer volume of my 
writings enabled them to pick out isolated incidents here and 
there and twist them. Unknown to me, the persons mentioned 
in my manuscript were thoroughly questioned and harassed. 

One of these persons was a Christian brother named 
Marko Kostoff who worked on the docks at Burgas, a port on 
the Black Sea. He was asked if we had talked together at the 
harbor, when we had talked, what we had talked about. In 
Bulgaria, a pastor usually calls on the members of his con- 
gregation in their homes at least once a month. During my 
visits I would talk about God, the needs of the family, and so 
on. If the husband worked in the fields, I would talk about the 
seed and the harvest. If someone worked for the railways, I 
would talk about what he did. In this manner during my 
pastoral visits to him I talked with Marko about the harbor 
and his work, as well as about spiritual things. 

My interrogators decided to make political capital out of 
this. Marko recalled at his interrogation that we discussed his 
work at the harbor. He mentioned that we once talked about a 
barrel of cheese. They had been loading barrels labeled 
marmalade onto a ship bound for Russia and one of the 
barrels happened to fall to the dock and burst, revealing that it 
contained cheese. In Bulgaria at that time there was no 
cheese to be obtained anywhere because the authorities were 
secretly sending all supplies to Russia labelled "mar- 
malade/' Marko had told me about this strange-looking 
"marmalade." He recalled that we had talked about this 
incident. 

In this way the authorities claimed that I "obtained 
information about activities at the harbor and passed it on to 
the English and Americans. ' * Similarly, my church members 
who were railway and factory workers, recalled that they had 
talked to me about their jobs. 

The authorities were carefully constructing a case 
against me, being most careful that I not appear as persecuted 
for my faith in God. One night I was led to a room on the 
fourth floor where I was ordered to sit and write. By this time, 
I was a starved skeleton moving in a stupor, a twilight world 
of semi-consciousness. The window opened into a court- 

39 



yard, on the other side of which was a wing occupied by the 
Secret Police. I noticed a lighted window in a room over on 
the other wing. Through this window I saw a man being 
tortured . He was held down on the floor with his feet up in the 
air. Two men pinned him down while a third, armed with a 
hard rubber club, beat with all his might on the bare soles of 
the poor man's feet. I could hear the blows distinctly all the 
way through the closed windows and across the courtyard. 
The man screamed in agony and pain. The blows continued 
until the man became unconscious and still they didn't stop. 

Surely that man never walked on those feet unaided 
again. The sight burned itself into me. Then, and countless 
nights to come, I closed my eyes so I couldn't see. I covered 
my ears so I couldn't hear. "O God, " I prayed, "help me to 
turn off my brain and not think!" 

Later, I resumed my slow painful writing, but my 
thoughts were with that man. I felt very sorry for him. Yet I 
was envious of him. I would have willingly traded places 
with him. His ordeal lasted only a few hours, but even if the 
torture lasted two days, it would be over for good then. He 
would be dead and his suffering over. I wished with all my 
heart that they might treat me like that, so that my suffering 
would end. I understood why they put wire nets over stair- 
wells and bars on windows on high floors; these were not to 
prevent escapes but suicides. If you died, they wanted you to 
go their way, not by your own choosing. But my wish was 
not fulfilled. God's thoughts are not our thoughts, and the 
Lord had another plan for me. I didn't understand it, but I 
accepted it. 

Leading Mitko to Christ 



Nickolai left the cell at the end of October and I was left 
alone to rest — with the "Death Diet" continuing. Though I 
was hungry, I was now permitted to sleep, so some of my 
strength came back. I gave up fighting the bugs and other 
creatures that swarmed over my sleeping body. I needed the 
sleep more than I needed the blood they took from me. Most 



40 



of my waking hours I spent in prayer. I wasn't so conscious 
of my hunger this way, and my spirit was uplifted. 

Some days later, the cell door opened and a young man 
named Mitko, about 23, was brought into my cell. Poor 
Mitko was so young and frightened. He kept pacing the cell 
saying over and over, *Tm innocent. I'm innocent!" to no 
one in particular. How many times those walls stained dark 
red from crushed bugs must have heard this! He was pitiful. 
Every time a guard passed by he would begin to shout again, 
'Tm innocent!" He praised Lenin and communism loudly, 
hoping the guards would hear him talking like a "gbod 
communist" and let him out. It was a pathetic, desperate 
effort (I have often seen prisoners do this). My heart went out 
to him and I began to tell him of Christ and the hope we can 
have in salvation. For days I worked to penetrate Mitko's 
sheer panic and get through to him. One day the wild look left 
his eyes and he began to really listen. My heart rejoiced. I 
was really reaching him. Two days later, Mitko said, ' 'Pas- 
tor, pray for me." 

I knelt down with Mitko and together we prayed. He 
prayed so earnestly and intensely, so from the heart, that the 
cell floor where he knelt was wet with tears. He had a 
wonderful and true experience with Christ. He became 
peaceful, quiet, with a deep inner satisfaction from God. 
Then I knew if nothing ever came of my imprisonment except 
this one soul led to Christ, it would be worth it all. 

One day the cell door opened and a guard came in. He 
had a paper to say that Mitko was to be freed. Mitko could not 
believe it but the guard showed him his release papers. The 
guard left to return for Mitko a little later. While waiting to 
leave Mitko told me, 4t Pastor, here in this cell I have found 
God because of you, and I shall follow Him all the days of my 
life." The guard returned and Mitko clasped me farewell. I 
have never again seen him but I am sure Mitko stayed true to 
Christ. 

I was alone for ten days. I felt so close with God in 
solitary confinement that I spent the time in praise and wor- 
ship. Such close communion with God! I talked with Him. 
He comforted me. It was a spiritual feast for me. During this 

41 



time, I received new strength, though my body was wasted 
away to nothing. Tears of joy ran down my face. Here, in 
the DS prison, alone and with nothing, I had everything — 
— Christ. Stripped of everything, without any worldly dis- 
tractions, I found a deep and beautiful communion with God. 
Joy and peace flooded my soul. My body ached with starva- 
tion but my spirit has never been closer to God. Lying 
starved, alone and too weak to move, I felt I could reach out 
to God and be taken into His arms. 

I was freer in that cell than I ever was on the outside. 
Free from the world and all its pressures and pursuits, I found 
a closeness to God such as never before in my busy days. 
Prison stripped away the cumbersome distractions of life and 
I found a spiritual depth and unity with Christ. Prison either 
destroys a man from within, or it gives him a deep spiritual 
strength. Prison, where one is cut off from life, often brings 
to light man's most genuine and deep resources. Strangely, 
being in the worst of conditions has often brought out the 
best, the most sacrificial in men. 

In the years to follow, I saw prisoners care for one 
another as closest brothers. Friendships were forged in com- 
mon suffering. I have often witnessed a starving man in 
prison take his only daily ration of bread crumbs and give 
them to another prisoner weaker than he, 

God's presence surrounded me and strengthened me. It 
filled me. I will never forget those ten days. Early on the 
morning of the tenth day, I looked out of my cell window 
toward the factory across the street. To my astonishment, I 
■ the clear form of a cross on the rooftop of the factory! I 
think probably the shadow of two big chimneys was formed 
ihe sun lighting the chimneys in such a way as to cause a 
to me. it was a sign from God. I stood at the cell 
a long time . looking at the cross and thinking of the 
lick Jesus died and of His love and goodness. 
nee as real as any I have ever heard said, "My 
i is your cross which you must bear. Prepare yourself 
fc€ morr nflcnV| 

Though I knew something terrible was about to happen, 
the sign of that cross gave me a feeling of confidence in God 

42 



and, looking through the bars on the cell window, I started 
singing a favorite hymn. 

Beneath the cross of Jesus 

I fain would take my stand. 

The shadow of a mighty rock, 

Within a weary land: 

A home within the wilderness, 

A rest upon the way, 

From the burning of the noontide heat, 

And the burden of the day. 

With tears running down my cheeks I sang on, 

I take O cross, thy shadow 
For my abiding place: 
I ask no other sunshine than 
The sunshine of His face; 
Content to let the world go by, 
To know no gain nor loss, 
My sinful self my only shame, 
My glory all the cross. 

I sang this song to the end, and my heart was filled with 
sweetness. Tears poured down my face. They were not bitter 
tears, but as we Christians in Bulgaria say, " sweet tears.** 
As I finished the song, the door opened and I was led 
downstairs for another period of torture. My ten days of quiet 
communion with God were over. My biggest ordeal was now 
here, with my "show trial*' coming up. 



The Showdown Comes 

My "show trial*' was already scheduled, dates set and I 
had not yet been broken. The officers were now becoming 
desperate, They had to break my will within a few days or 
else. It was eight o'clock when I was led back down the 
staircase with the wire netting, and again to the office of 
Comrade Manoff, the chief interrogator. Though I walked as 
if carried away by the effects of the great blessing I had 

43 



received. J in my body. My legs almost gave 

rh me as I walked. The accumulated effect of what 
I had been through had taken its toll. God's Word had been 
accomplished in me: the body was weak, but the spirit was 
strong. 

I greeted Manoff politely, but he turned his head without 
responding. There was another person in the room whom I 
had never seen before. With a fierce shout he commanded me 
to face the wall, so I placed myself once again in this familiar 
position. It started all over again. Manoff had three inter- 
rogators to assist him. I could tell this was the showdown. 
The voices were fierce with hatred. They had evidently been 
reprimanded for failing to break me and this time, they were 
not going to fail. The oldest was the one who had ordered me 
to face the wall. His name was Dimitri Avrahamoff. The 
other two young men looked to be only in their early twen- 
ties. The younger of the two was a young man whose eyes 
were filled with consuming hatred. His face was physically 
contorted with hatred toward me. How young, but already 
how reduced to animal-like hatred and frenzy! 

How this man needed Christ! I thought. 

The three rotated every eight hours, while I stood facing 
the wall again — without any sleep, keeping my eyes open, 
just as I had done the fourteen days earlier. Yet, then I had 
some reserve of strength. Now I had none. The "Death 
Diet" had taken its toll. 

After twelve o'clock the first night, the young man so 
filled with hatred came on duty. He watched my every move, 
noting if I shifted my feet to rest a little, or if I didn't stand at 
attention. He scoffed and jeered at me. As I have already 
mentioned, the hours after midnight are the most difficult for 
a prisoner, for that is when the body demands sleep and one 
has to fight to keep awake. No matter how much one tries to 
keep awake, he dozes, even if he is standing, and falls. When 
this would happen to me, the young man would silently steal 
up behind me and hit me with a stinging blow to the side of 
my head that left my ears ringing. 

Immediately, following the blow, he kicked me in my 
shins with his heavy boots with all his might. Once, after I 

44 



had fallen, I was commanded to hold my arms straight up. 
After about ten minutes they became so tired they fell down. 
With a loud curse he screamed for me to raise my arms again, 
but I didn't have the strength to carry out his order. Another 
blow. Another kick. He then ordered me to lean against the 
wall on two fingers, which is still worse. These men know 
every painful contortion the human body can be put into. The 
last hours of the night were indescribably painful. It was still 
only the first night, but at least I had succeeded in holding 
out. 

With the new day came renewed strength. It is interest- 
ing to note that one doesn't feel as tired during the day as he 
does during the night. I learned much about the human body 
and its endurance during these times. 

The torture, beatings and vicious kicks continued dur- 
ing the second, third, and fourth day. The side of my head 
was swollen. My shins were in constant pain from the kick- 
ing. I became weaker, receiving neither food nor water. 
Again my hunger vanished and instead, there was the thirst I 
had experienced before. The blood had again left my head 
and gone to my legs, which had swollen to twice their normal 
size. My face had shriveled, my beard had grown quite long, 
my lips were cracked, blood ran down my beard again. I was 
experiencing what had happened once before, but it was 
more painful this time. 

One day blurred into another. I passed out and often 
collapsed. They revived me with a bucket of water and stood 
me up again, raining blows and curses on me. I felt nothing 
but fire, fire, burning fire from thirst and pain. Then God's 
Word came to me in a flash ! "But all these things will they do 
unto you for my name's sake . . . " (John 15:21). "Forunto 
you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on 
him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Philippians 1:29). For 
His sake! For Christ's sake! This glorious thought renewed 
my strength. My spirit began to talk with God, The most 
difficult hours — the ones after midnight — came and went 
and I didn't even know where the night had gone. Soon it was 
the morning of the seventh day. 

Manoff, the interrogation leader, came in again and 

45 



n t at all happy to see me looking so refreshed. It was now 
the seventh day and he was waiting to see me break. The trial 
was only a short time off and they were getting desperate. He 
called out an order to Dimitri, who seized me from behind the 
shoulders and shook me savagely. I felt the Spirit of the Lord 
filling me again. Dimitri swung me around, clenched his fist, 
then something happened to me. 

I can't explain it to this day. At that moment every 
muscle in my body became as hard as stone. The weakness of 
a few moments before entirely disappeared. The effects of six 
days and nights of starvation, standing, and blows, the curs- 
ing and the three months of torture and starvation were 
forgotten in a moment. My weakened, shrivelled body 
straightened out. I came to my full height before Dimitri, 
straight as a statue. Dimitri towered over me, for he was a 
big, strong man. His first three blows landed squarely bet- 
ween my eyes. My nose swelled and blood gushed forth, but 
I felt no pain. My muscles were hard and my body rigid. I 
neither swayed nor fell from weakness. 

More blows followed but incredibly I felt no pain, the 
front of my shirt was covered with blood. Dimitri hit me 
cruelly. My face was a mass of pouring blood, open cuts and 
swelling. But still I felt no pain! Instead, I felt a surging 
power come over me and I held my face up to present Dimitri 
with a better target. I moved toward Dimitri and he started 
backing up. I followed him. My face was near him again. I 
cried out, "Hit me! Then you will understand. Hit me! Hit 
me!" Shaken and pale, Dimitri slowly turned and collapsed 
heavily in a chair. 

I had followed him across the room demanding that he 
hit me, propelled by a force not my own. Now I stood over 
him as he slumped in the chair. Suddenly, the supernatural 
strength I had felt drained from me. I felt so weak I couldn't 
stand. I collapsed and crumbled to the floor like a wet rag. 
The incredible experience was over. I lay there as the room 
was filled with silence and bewildered interrogators. Finally, 
they hauled me up and shoved me against the wall. I leaned 
against it weakly. I stood there all night. 

The next day was November 7, the day I lost my will. I 

46 



remember falling as if someone had hit me over the head with 
an iron bar. I began to have hallucinations. The room was 
filled with snakes. They crawled on the floor, up the walls 
and furniture, and came straight at me and slithered over all 
my body. The knot-holes in the wall became faces — mad 
faces laughing hysterically at me. I was on the verge of 
madness. The snakes, the faces — all seemed to be swirling 
around and around and I felt myself sinking down, down, 
ever down. I had sunk to the edge of madness. Through 
months of beatings, starvation and torture, I had fought the 
good fight. I had stood more than a human body was meant to 
stand. I came to the end of myself. "O God/' I cried. My 
will was broken at last. They had won this time. 

Under the influence of this psychological treatment and 
physical torture a person is transformed into something like a 
phonograph record, which speaks and sings whatever has 
been cut on it. They fed us the words and like a machine we 
repeated them. If they told me I had killed my own mother I 
would have mechanically repeated, "Yes, I killed my 
mother." 

I was no longer human, but a human tape recorder. I had 
been battered, beaten, brutalized, starved, until I was a 
human robot. I was ready to confess anything. Having re- 
duced me to dough, Dimitri began to knead me as he desired. 
He seemed quite a specialist in this field. It wasn't the first 
time he had succeeded in bending a prisoner to his will. He 
said to me, "You are a spy of the first class." 

"Yes," I replied. 

"That's what I like about you. You are on the right 
track. Sit down. We will wait until Manoff comes, then you 
can go to your cell and rest. " I sat down on a chair. My head 
swam with dizziness. From that moment, I believed and 
knew that I was a spy. That is how all fourteen of us church 
leaders became "spies." 

In the morning, Manoflf came. He grinned from ear to 
ear at the news. I was taken to my cell, given food, and left 
alone to rest. I lay for a long time while my body and nervous 
system quieted down, then I slipped into a deep sleep. 

An elaborate series of "confessions" was prepared by 

47 



the communists for me to sign. I signed them. If they had* 
ordered me to sign that God was dead I would have signed. 
My own will had gone so far it would simply go no further. 
On December 3 1 , at 4 p.m. , I was told to get my belongings 
together. I had a mattress and blanket which I had received 
from home after my will was broken, and I rolled them 
together with my clothes and a few other things. Two guards 
led me out to a car waiting outside. The day was bitterly cold. 
On Sofia's streets, the trees and telephone poles were cov- 
ered with a thick layer of frost. They looked so beautiful. We 
drove down a number of streets, then found ourselves at the 
back doors of Sofia's Central Prison. 

The D.S. had finished their work. I had left the "White 
House." 

They had "prepared" me for the trial. 



The Wooden Shoe Song 

"But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, 
and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and 
into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my 
name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony" (Luke 
21:12, 13). With these words, Jesus prepared His disciples 
for what was going to come. During the whole history of 
Christianity these words have been fulfilled over and over 
and it still happens in our day. The Bulgarian evangelical 
congregations experienced it to an especially great degree. 

The "prison" in my case was a five-story building 
surrounded by a big yard. Around the yard was a fifteen- 
foot-high and three-foot-thick stone wall. In each of the four 
corners of this fortress was a high tower in which a guard was 
always on duty. The Central Prison is similar in construction 
to all the other prisons in Bulgaria, but is larger than any 
other. Built many years before the communists came to 
power, it had more than 350 one-man cells, each containing a 
bed, a table and a chair. Since the floor was made of cement, 
the prisoners had to wear wooden shoes. In this prison, built 
to accommodate 300 to 400 prisoners, there were now over 

48 



5,000! One whole section of the prison had been taken over 
to accommodate the pastors and the witnesses, numbering 
170 persons in all. After the trial, some were freed, others 
sent to another prison, and still others were sent to concentra- 
tion camps. 

My cell was at the endof a corridor, next to a toilet. The 
toilet was where the prisoners brought their buckets and 
dumped them. My cell was like a cold storage plant, rather 
than a place for a person to live. The floor was littered with 
rubbish. I placed my straw mattress and blanket on the 
cement floor and lay down on them. It was a cold day, and 
though I wore every item of my clothing and wrapped myself 
in my blanket, I could not sleep for the cold. 

It was New Year's Eve and I paced the cell, wrapped in 
my blanket, listening to the clacking of the prisoners' 
wooden shoes on the cement floors. We called it the 
"Wooden Shoe Song." It was caused by thousands of pris- 
oners pacing back and forth trying to get warm. During the 
thirteen years of my imprisonment I had only one pair of 
leather shoes, but I can't begin to count how many pairs of 
wooden shoes I wore out. Tonight, I was hearing the wooden 
shoe song for the first time. I would hear its eerie sound many 
times over. 

Chilled to the bone on this dreadfully cold night, I and 
the other 5,000 prisoners watched the New Year come in. 

Later, Ruth told about her first visit to me. She said, 
* 'Early in January, a prison guard came to me and explained 
that I together with the children could visit my husband in the 
prison. I hadn't seen my husband since he had been arrested 
on July 24, 

"At the prison, we were greeted by the superintendent 
who was very friendly. Then we were taken to a waiting 
room, and Haralan was led in by two guards. There we 
greeted each other, while an official sat nearby to listen to our 
conversation. My husband's legs, arms — his whole 
body — were swollen to twice their normal size. I asked him 
if he had been sick, since he was so enlarged. He glanced 
around nervously and put his fingers to his lips, so I knew I 

49 



wasn't allowed to ask him. He then said aloud, 'My clothes 
arc a little tight. If you could send me some larger pants, it 
would be good.' The ten minutes of our visiting time were 
soon up — it went much too fast. Then Haralan was led out 
again." 

Seeing Ruth for the first time since my arrest, I asked 
her, "You see what you got into marrying me. Perhaps it 
would have been better for you to have remained in Sweden. 
I have brought you only suffering." 

Tears came into her eyes and she said, "No, my place is 
with you." 

After her visit I received good food to "fatten me up*' 
back to my original weight and medical attention to repair the 
physical damage. I must not show any signs of what I had 
been through. 

Broken, But Not Bowed 

The courthouse in Sofia is the largest single building in 
Bulgaria. How appropriate that it is so large, it gets much 
use. It takes up a whole block in the central part of the city. 
My trial took place in the most beautiful and important 
courtroom in the courthouse — Courtroom 1 1 . 

Microphones and movie cameras were installed on both 
sides of the auditorium so that the proceedings could be 
filmed. Journalists from foreign countries were among the 
special guests, among them, The London Telegraph, The 
New York Times and other great newspapers. This was to be a 
history-making trial in which I and the other fourteen highest 
church leaders of Bulgaria were to be tried at the same time. 
Also present was the "Red Dean" of Canterbury, H. 
Johnson, who was flown in especially for the trial. 

Our relatives were given a special admittance card. The 
hall, which held over 500 people, was packed. One by one 
we were brought up from our basement cells with a police- 
man on either side of us. We went to our seats without any 
form of communication with one another. Nevertheless, we 
couldn't help staring at one another when we saw the "well- 
attired" pastors, each dressed in his own neat, well-pressed 

50 



suit. What a contrast to the filthy prison rags we had worn for 
six months'. 

How did this happen? Two weeks before the hearing 
began, we were told to write to our families and request our 
dress shirts and well-pressed suits. They also were permitted 
to send us as much food as they were able. Besides this, we 
had been getting nourishing and fattening food from the 
prison kitchen for the previous two weeks. All of this was to 
insure there would be no trace of the suffering we had been 
through, since we were to appear before the foreign press and 
diplomatic officials. We were to look well-fed, well-clothed 
and well-treated — communist deceit at work! 

The court consisted of three judges, but they were only 
puppets. The real decisions were in the hands of the DS 
people sitting in the first row of the audience. The script had 
already been written well in advance. The charges were read 
by Bulgarians Chief Prosecuting Attorney who was assisted 
by State's Attorney Tsakoff. 

The first one on the stand was the Baptist pastor, Nick- 
ola Michailoff . His hearing lasted six hours. He was the most 
transformed and the one most ready to say what the com- 
munists wanted him to say. Actually, Pastor Ziapkofif, who 
was the leader of all the evangelical congregations in Bul- 
garia, should have been. the first to take the stand, but evi- 
dently the DS didn't quite trust him to humble himself. 

Pastor Michailoff proved to be an * 'important witness" 
against all the pastors, especially against Pastor Ziapkofif. 

His testimony alone would have been sufficient to con- 
demn us all to death, but because we had "confessed" we 
were "reprieved" to serve prison terms, the intention being 
to show communist "mercy," 

The second on the stand was' the Methodist leader, 
Paster Janko Ivanoff . He repeated what the Baptist pastor had 
said and confirmed his testimony in every respect. 

The next day the newspapers were filled with the terrible 
"confessions" of espionage by the pastors who had "sold" 
Bulgaria to the English and Americans. According to the 
papers, "the people" demanded the most severe penalties. It 
was evident that everything in the newspapers came from the 

51 



DS. In fact, we later learned the articles had been written 
weeks before! Early in the morning we were given copies of 
the papers, so we would realize that our situation was hope- 
less and there was nothing else for us to do but to confess, 
repent and plead for clemency. Our confessions were written 
out like sermons and we were told that, after we had read the 
confessions, we were to begin moaning and crying in "re- 
pentance." 

Only my brother, Ladin, had not yet been broken. He 
had even refused to wear a necktie into court as a token of his 
resistance. That night the British Broadcasting Company in 
London broadcast that Ladin Popov was the only one of the 
fifteen pastors charged with espionage who refused to con- 
fess. They (the BBC) proclaimed him the hero of the trial and 
he truly was. Ladin is physically very powerful and has been 
able to withstand much of the torture. Being unmarried, he 
did not have a wife or children to be concerned about. This 
helped him mentally. 

The trial was a tragic "black** comedy, written, pro- 
duced and directed by the DS. We pastors had been beaten 
and starved until we were like tape recorders. Before the 
trial, we had been deprived of the two most important factors 
in a human being's life — his will and his reason. In reality, 
we were only tape recordings played by the DS people 
— recordings which played back their will, wishes, 
thoughts, and lies, Tape recordings reproduce only what has 
been recorded on them. 

According to communist teaching, the end justifies the 
means. This allows communists to use lies, deliberate decep- 
tion, murder, and every measure possible to reach their goal. 

In our case, they had specific objectives. 

First, the case against the nation's leading pastors was 
designed to destroy the evangelical churches. Secondly, it 
was to destroy the faithful pastors in one blow, so puppet 
pastors could replace us. But, it was really Christ and His 
teachings which were being judged when we pastors were 
placed on the witness stand. Once more, the devil had false 
witnesses and had found false accusations to get rid of Christ, 
the Light of the World. He was tried before Pilate who took 

52 



his orders from Rome, mocked, sentenced to death, crucified 
and laid in a sealed tomb. We were following in His 
footsteps. 

But regardless of how shrewd, clever and wicked the 
devil was, he didn't succeed. The reason is found in Paul's 
words to Timothy: "The word of God is not bound' ' (2 
Timothy 2:9). God's Word cannot be destroyed. Sooner or 
later, truth will be victorious. Just when the devil thought he 
was victorious, Christ arose from the tomb. A lie is always a 
lie. Neither Marxists nor Leninists will ever succeed in 
building an earthly paradise upon a lie. 

The witnesses for the prosecution were like the chief 
priests who saw to it that Jesus would be sentenced to death. 
The allegations made against us had no basis in fact, yet the 
empty words and fabricated circumstances were repeated 
time after time. 

An engineer who worked in a marmalade factory tes- 
tified that he had discussed with Pastor Ivanoff how the 
marmalade was "vacuum packed." Later, the engineer 
found some money in a book of his. The prosecuting attorney 
asked him, "How do you think it got there? Don't you 
believe that Pastor Ivanoff put it there as payment for the 
information he got from you?" After some mumbling, the 
witness said, "It is clear that he must have done it." 

Such were the testimonies against us! The witnesses 
didn't tell the truth. Their perjury, however, was involun- 
tary. They said what they were forced to say and I felt no ill 
will toward them. 

The testimony continued for eight days; the whole trial 
lasted twelve. It was engineered like a puppet theatre. The 
strings were pulled and the puppets moved. After the hearing 
of evidence the prosecuting attorney made a speech which 
lasted for four hours, which contained more politics than 
accusations. He described the international situation and said 
that "international imperialism" tried to keep the workers 
from fighting for their ideals. He said that through us, the 
pastors, the imperialists were trying to demolish com- 
munism. 

When he had finished, his assistant delivered a tirade of 

53 



damnations, vilifying each of us personally. During the en- 
tire hearing, both the prosecution and the defense pointed out 
how wicked the crime was and called for the death penalty for 
what they charged was espionage in politics, economic af- 
fairs and matters of national defense. Neither the prosecution 
nor the defense could give an example of anything we had 
done to deserve such severe punishment. Our lawyers, who 
were earning big money every day for "defending" us, 
supported the prosecuting attorney's propaganda and con- 
demned us. 

Only two of the defense attorneys dared to tell the truth. 
One of them was not a communist; he was there because he 
was one of the ablest and best- known lawyers in Sofia. In his 
defense statement he said, "Your honor, these pastors have 
been prosecuted as spies. Isn't it our duty to find out what 
their espionage consists of?" 

He continued: "Pastor Mishkoff had sketched a map 
showing a road from Plovdiv to Pestera. According to the 
prosecution, this map was passed on to the Americans. Are 
the Americans so simple that they could not go to the nearest 
book shop and buy a map of Bulgaria which shows not only 
all the roads in the country but also the railroads? Such maps 
are sold openly." 

The prosecuting attorney leaped to his feet as if stung by 
a bee. He bellowed, "Mr. Toumparoff, you have no right to 
say that! Don't you know that today everything is secret in 
Bulgaria?" 

Toumparoff immediately realized the seriousness of the 
prosecutor's tone, and the implied threat so he changed his 
tactics and adopted the same compliance used by the other 
attorneys on both sides. 

Pastor Vasil Ziapkoff, the leader of the evangelical 
congregations, received the worst treatment. Despite his 
innocence of the charges laid against him, his* lawyers ad- 
vised him to confess, repent and ask for mercy, otherwise it 
would be impossible to escape the death penalty. 

When he testified on his own behalf, this man we knew 
as a firm and solid servant of the Lord, cried profusely. He, 
too, has passed through unspeakable sufferings. Everyone 

54 



looked at Pastor Ziapkoff in surprise. But it wasn't Pastor 
Ziapkoff who spoke, it was a "tape recording" that played 
back the song which had been composed by the DS . Even the 
tone and sound of his voice wasn't his. After the court 
hearing, we didn't see Pastor Ziapkoff for three years. His 
torture had pushed him over the brink of insanity and it was 
three full years before he recovered. Under the cir- 
cumstances, timidity and fear gripped the churches — the 
second plan of the DS was beginning to work. 

One after another the leading Christian laymen were 
called before the DS and sharply told they must renounce 
their acquaintanceship and fellowship with their former pas- 
tors. The newspapers began printing notices from members 
or leading Christians in the different congregations saying, 
' 'I express my disgust for the pastors' activities and renounce 
my acquaintanceship with them." 

As in Elijah's day a remnant refused to bow down to 
Baal, and so there were those in the congregations who stood 
by us. There were pastors who did not write renunciations in 
the papers. However, one by one, these pastors were soon 
ostracized and forced to leave the ministry. Some were even 
sent to concentration camps. Others pushed brooms as street 
sweepers in the very cities in which they had pastored. Many 
of these faithful, ostracized pastors began "secret" meetings 
in homes at great risk. 

Soon communism came into the Church itself in the 
form of the "New Pastors" appointed by the DS. Some of 
the young people and the more active members were sent for 
at night by the DS. They were beaten viciously during the 
night in a way which left no marks . In the morning, they were 
released and forced to promise to tell no one what had 
happened — not even their wives. 

One young Christian was summoned to the DS every 
night for six months for nightly beatings. By various means 
they tried to get him to promise to tell everything that hap- 
pened in the congregation. He refused. His wife noticed 
these nightiy absences and saw him return white and shaking 
from his all-night beating sessions. He never told her of his 
sufferings. 

55 



The same methods were used on many other young 
Christians throughout the country. Fervent Christians and 
active members were especially sought after by the DS 
Many were not able to hold out, and bowed to the will of the 
authorities perhaps in order to remain in the congregation. 
Fear of being reported determined one's conduct. In many 
cases, one knew who the informer was, but one never dared 
to say it openly because the DS could reach anyone they 
wanted. I am reminded of the prediction in the Bible that man 
will be betrayed by his own relatives. 

Many Christians in other countries can never under- 
stand how shrewd and wicked are the powers of darkness. 
This is because they have never sat alone in a prison cell, 
completely helpless and hopeless. No matter how many 
books are written about it, only those who have experienced 
the ways and means that were used can ever comprehend 
what Satan can devise to torture men. 

On March 8, our sentences were announced. The 
heaviest sentences fell on the leaders of the various 
denominations — Pastor Vasil Ziapkoff, the religious rep- 
resentative of United Evangelical Churches, Pastor Janko 
Ivanoff, Assistant Representative of the United Evangelical 
Churches, Pastor Georgi Cherneff, Assistant Chairman of 
the United Evangelical Churches, Nickola Michailoff, 
Chairman of the United Evangelical Churches. Each was 
sentenced to life imprisonment and confiscation of all his 
property by the State. Their families were left with nothing 
but the clothes on their backs. 

The other pastors and I, members of the Supreme Coun- 
cil of the United Evangelical Churches, were sentenced to 
fifteen years imprisonment. 

Pastors Jontso Drenoff, Zakari Raieheff and Ivan 
Angeloff were each sentenced to ten years imprisonment. 

Pastor Mitko Matteff received six years and eight 
months imprisonment; Ladin, my brother, was given five 
years imprisonment. (He had never broken so they found 
another trumped-up charge for him.) Pastor Angel Dinoff 
and Pastor Alexander GeorgiefT were both released on proba- 
tion. Angel Dinoff was immediately selected by the com- 

56 



munists to be the president of the Evangelical Congregations. 
During the whole time of his arrest, it seemed that he was 
being prepared by the DS for this task. 

The communists knew an outward attack on the 
churches would unite and strengthen the believers, as it has 
done down through Christian history. So they decided to 
destroy or control it from within. The communists had found 
him a willing instrument. To this day the communist tactic is 
to close some churches and install their own men in those that 
remain open. 

The Tragic Suffering of Our Families 

After the trial, we were returned to the prison, to disap- 
pear from public view. But now it was our families as well as 
ourselves who suffered. Persecution came not only from the 
enemies of the cross, but also from the newly-installed "pas- 
tors." The people were warned that anyone trying to assist 
the arrested pastors or their destitute families would be sent to 
a concentration camp. 

One of the pastors from northern Bulgaria collected a 
little money which he sent to Ruth and Pastor Cherneffs 
wife. He was accosted in the street, grabbed by the collar and 
asked savagely, "Who gave you permission to collect money 
for the arrested pastors* families?" The old brother lifted his 
hand toward heaven and said, "God." 

Once Ruth was down to her last penny. Paul and Rhoda 
were crying from hunger. She fell to her knees and prayed, 
'God, we have no food. We have no money. Haralan is in 
prison. God, I am at the end of myself. Help us." 

A little later that very day a letter arrived from the 
above-mentioned old brother, enclosing a postal money 
order for enough to pull her through the emergency! 

Later Ruth, Paul and Rhoda were ordered out of the 
house we lived in. This intense suffering of families of 
Christian prisoners was carefully planned to increase the 
agony of the men imprisoned. 

Ruth was concerned that her family in Sweden know the 
truth about our trial. Due to the poor postal services, we 

57 



hadn't received a letter from them for some time and didn't 
know whether her letters had reached them. Then one day she 
was consoled in an unexpected way. An ordinary postcard 
arrived from a relative. It read, "We have heard, we have 
read, and we understand the whole thing." 

The fear of the communists went so far that the New 
Pastors requested their members to find out who had dared 
help Ruth and my children. The family of Pastor ChernefT 
had been forced to move to Svistov, a little town near the 
Danube. One day, Mrs. Cherneff was in Sofia on an errand 
and in the evening she went to a meeting in the church where 
her husband had served for twenty years. Although it was 
raining hard, and everyone knew Mrs. Cherneff well, the 
informers were present so no one could invite her to stay 
overnight. So Mrs. Cherneff walked the streets all night. 

At first, Ruth had a job. It was ironic. She was to clean 
Angel Dinoff's church every other day. She also received a 
small monthly salary for playing the organ at services. It 
wasn't long though before Dinoff was warned by the au- 
thorities that in this way he was helping the imprisoned 
pastors' families, so he made it clear to my wife that she was 
no longer needed. 

Then a sister in the congregation, who was sick, asked 
my wife to take her place at work. This was how my wife 
found a job as a night cleaning woman. She kept that job for a 
whole year before her employers found out she was Haralan 
Popov's wife. She was immediately dismissed. 

Ruth struggled every day to keep our children fed. It 
was a lonely, desperate struggle to stay alive. Later, I learned 
that even our Christian brothers in the free world did nothing 
to help us. It is a shame on the conscience of the Christians of 
the free world that thousands of Christian families are suffer- 
ing like this now — alone and unaided — in communist 
lands. 

Ruth had not a penny of support. She and the children 
survived on a few carrots slipped to them by a courageous 
Christian who defied the New Pastors' warnings. It was a 
dangerous, precarious existence for Ruth and the children. 
The communists always cause the families of imprisoned 

58 



Christians to suffer at least as much as the prisoners them- 
selves. This is to increase the mental suffering and burden of 
the prisoners. 

One cannot describe the agony of a father or husband 
locked helplessly behind bars knowing his wife and children 
are at that moment almost starving, driven from town to town 
like rootless animals. It is a burden far worse than starvation 
for man to bear. 

I have seen strong men who could take almost any 
physical beating go mad knowing what their wives and 
children were suffering — and being unable to help. 

This is the tragedy of our fellow Christians who are 
imprisoned in communist lands today. 

"You're a Dead Man, Haralan Popov!" 

After we had been sentenced, we were sent back to the 
Central Prison and put in small cells. For a time the food and 
conditions were improved. In the cell with me were Pastors 
Cherneff, Angeloff, and Matter!. Ladin, my brother, was 
also with us for a short time but he was quickly transferred 
elsewhere. This was the first time we had all been together 
since our arrests, and we began talking about what had 
happened and what we had been through. We were now 
slowly coming out of this state of being semi-robots and 
human tape recorders, and were regaining our senses. 

As we did, I said to the pastors with me, "We have 
faced not men, but Satan himself. Though he has done his 
work well, I for one am more determined than ever that in the 
end God will triumph. Brethren remember, 'He that is in you 
is greater than he that is in the world.' They have won the 
battle, but with God's help we will win the war.*' 

Pastor Angeloff replied, "Haralan, that is true. If God 
be for us, who can be against us?" 

One day I was taken to a little office where one of the 
crudest members of the DS , Comrade Aneflf, was waiting for 
me. Standing beside him was a man I had not seen before. He 
was dark and thin, with extremely fierce eyes and the features 
of a drunkard. Almost immediately, he jumped on me and 

59 



began to beat me all over my body. I fell under the rain of 
blows, while on the floor he kicked me with all his might and 
screamed horrible obscenities. He screamed,- "Popov, we 
know you! You've been trying to start a plot with the other 
pastors. We're going to teach you who will triumph over 
whom!" He ordered me taken to the dampest cell in the 
prison. As I was led out he screamed, "You're going to rot 
down there by yourself! You'll never see the light of day 
again! You're a dead man, Haralan Popov!" 

Two guards led me down to the basement floor of the 
prison. There, at the end, was a heavy metal door, rusty from 
the dampness. As I was pushed through it I saw another flight 
of stairs going almost straight down like a ladder. I de- 
scended the steep steps into the cold dark dampness. The 
only light now was from the guards' flashlights. I felt as 
though I were descending into the very pits of hell itself. I 
waited at the bottom of the steps as the guards made their way 
down the steep stairs. It was inhumanly cold with an un- 
earthly blackness, blacker than I have ever seen before. 

The guards took me by each arm, led me down a narrow 
walkway to a cell door. Opening it, they roughly shoved me 
in and locked it. I heard their footsteps leave, going back up 
the stairs to the world above. 

It was deathly quiet and totally black. I couldn't see my 
hand in front of my face. I felt around like a blind man, found 
the tin drinking cup and tapped on the walls, but I got no reply 
from either side of my cell. I was all alone down here in the 
black bowels of the earth. Then the enraged communist's 
words struck me, "You'll never see the light of day 
again. . . . You're going to rot down there!" 

I resigned myself to being forgotten down here in this 
deep, forgotten crevice far below even the lowest level, left 
to rot. And it wouldn't be long before a man would rot here. I 
felt the walls and they were wet with moisture dripping 
down. Deep in this forgotten cell so unbelievably dark, I got 
on my knees and prayed, "God, I know there is no cell deep 
enough, no iron bars strong enough to separate me from You. 
God, be with me. Give me strength." 

The floor of the cell was so wet from subterranean 

60 



underground moisture I couldn't lie down. I felt my way 
around, over to the corner and huddled down there with my 
arms wrapped around me for warmth and went to sleep. I 
don't know when I awoke. In such absolute darkness one 
loses all track of time. It is like being suspended in another 
world. I tried to measure time in my mind, but it began 
playing tricks on me. Without some usual references, stars, 
daylight, shadows — something — a man loses all sense of 
measuring time. Even the blind have braille clocks, or other 
means. Imprisoned in that absolute vacuum of black space I 
had nothing. 

For the first time in over a year I began to fear for my 
sanity. Had I been here for a day? or 20 days? For an hour, or 
for a week? 

Only occasionally would I hear a voice, an iron grate 
would open and a metal plate be scooted on the floor with a 
little water and three or four carrots or a rotten potato with 
worms in it. 

I now resigned myself to spending the rest of my life 
here. Mentally, I had accepted it. One day while I was 
praying, the hopelessness of my situation struck me full 
force. Starved, beaten, forgotten here, I knew there was no 
hope of ever getting out. It was a high-ranking officer who 
told me I would "rot" here and he meant business. Tears 
came to my eyes. For weeks I had been like this. "Oh, 
God," I cried. 

Then something happened which has never happened 
before or since. A light glow began to shine and a warming 
sensation filled the cell and enveloped my weakened, starved 
frame. I felt strong arms around me, cradling me in the arms 
of Christ Himself. That same voice which I had heard when I 
had stood at the wall for two weeks spoke again. I can never 
describe that voice. Overwrought with love and compassion, 
Christ spoke to me saying, "My son, I shall never forsake 
you. My arms are around you and in them I shall comfort you 
and give you strength." 

Tears flowed down my cheeks as I was held in the 
embrace of Christ. I know some readers may think this 
extreme, but when I was at the point of madness and despair, 

61 



Christ let me know He had not forgotten me there huddled in 
the blackness of a forgotten cell in the bowels of the earth. It 
was a beautiful loving embrace and a moment that made all 
the suffering worthwhile. How I love Him! If all men in the 
world could only know this Christ in His beauty and love! 

Now I was with Christ and content to wait for death to be 
with Him. He talked with me, comforted me and His pres- 
ence filled the cell in an almost physical way. He held my 
hand in His nail-pierced hand. He knew suffering and shared 
the suffering of His children. 

Those were precious, precious days. I communed with 
Christ as, getting weaker and weaker, I waited for death. 

Then at some time much later, I heard noises of 
footsteps and men talking. My cell door was flung open and a 
brilliant flashlight shone in my face. " Popov, get out of 
there! You're coming with us!" a voice shouted. I could 
hardly move from having stayed in one position for so long. 
They half carried me and half dragged me out, pushing me up 
the stairs. When 1 saw even the dim light of the basement 
cells, my eyes rebelled against the brightness, being accus- 
tomed to total darkness. 

Finally, I was back in the cell block where I had been 
before. Thrown in a cell, I asked the prisoner inside what the 
date was. I had been down there for 35 days and would never 
have gotten out, but the officer who ordered me there "to 
rot" had been transferred. Evidently God still had a purpose 
for me in this life. 

Later, in the corridor, I met a little hunched-over man. 
He was Pastor Ivan Angeloff, who had gone through the 
same treatment as I. Pastor Angeloff and I were taken to the 
eighth department of the prison and put in an empty cell. We 
found some boards with which to make beds so that at least 
we no longer had to sleep on the cement floor. The very first 
night, the inevitable bedbugs were waiting for us. Attacking 
in swarms, they fell from the ceiling like raindrops. They 
swarmed over everything, especially us. Evidently we were 
the first prisoners in this cell in a long while, and the bugs had 
missed their meals. We could never sleep under such cir- 
cumstances, so we spent the night pacing the cell, killing 

62 



bedbugs. We got a little sleep during the day when the 
bedbugs were not active. At night we took turns sleeping. 
While Pastor AngelorT slept, I stood "sentry" duty killing 
the bugs and keeping them off him. When I slept, he did the 
same. By the third night, the number of bedbugs had been 
considerably reduced, but the walls of the cell were deco- 
rated with red spots, which soon turned black. 

In the middle of June we were moved to a large three- 
cornered cell which contained twenty other pastors — some 
from another trial which took place after ours. Our trial was 
only the start of the war to wipe out support of the churches. 
Now, for the first time, we were allowed a short walk outside 
every day. It was great to breathe fresh air again and see the 
blue sky and sunshine. I felt like a new man, even though I 
was still surrounded by prison walls. One day, I noticed a 
tiny, green blade of grass growing through a crack in the 
cement. As our guard looked elsewhere, I quickly bent down 
and picked it. You can't imagine what that tiny blade of grass 
meant to me . It was green and living . It was the first contact I 
had had with the outside for nearly a year. To hold that little 
blade of God's grass caused my spirits to soar. 

Some days later, the superintendent of the prison visited 
our cell. He looked cheerful and informed us that we all 
would be given work to do — but first we had to become 
members of the "Cultural Society" in the prison. 

The Cultural Society was a circle started by the Secret 
Police — the DS. In every prison, the DS set out to indoctri- 
nate the prisoners. Actually, the Society was designed to 
' ' brainwash' ' us and to supply the DS with information about 
all the prisoners. The only thing that concerned them was the 
attitude of each prisoner toward the regime. The prisoners 
were also "trained" in the circle. At the end of the training, 
they were graded either "intractable" or "reformed." 



Classified As Unreformed 

* 

The Cultural Society developed into a strong organiza- 
tion with reports, choral songs, theatre performances and 

63 



courses (for example, on Marxism, Leninism, the cultivation 
of vineyards or agriculture). The most important courses 
were on communism. No matter what the course, the lectur- 
ers always managed to bring m a good deal about com- 
munism's two main figures, Marx and Lenin. Capitalism 
was condemned: it was intolerable and must be annihilated. 
Communism, however, was the greatest and most humane 
political system there was! Of course, all of this was so crazy 
and untrue that the lecturer himself didn't believe it. His 
bored, listless and empty words made him like a record 
player. The same words, the same sentences, the same ex- 
pressions, the same reports were repeated over and over. It 
was sickening, but we had to endure it. 

In the beginning, we didn't realize the purpose of the 
Cultural Society. When we did realize its objectives, there 
was no way to escape it. 

Let me point out again the difference between breaking 
our will and "brainwashing" us. My will was broken after 
six months of being beaten into helplessness, until my human 
body reached its very limits and physically crumbled. It was 
temporary. 

Brainwashing is "permanently" convincing someone 
communism is good. They could break my will, but they 
could never "brainwash" me! During the time they tried to 
"convert" and brainwash me, I was given work as a book- 
printer and type-setter. The other pastors worked in a 
cardboard factory. 

Within two months, the prison authorities realized that I 
could not be "brainwashed" and gave up on me. I had 
failed the course' ' and was marked for a hard-labor prison. 

On December 1, my turn came. I was working in the 
printing shop when I was told to pack my things and take 
them to the auditorium. I had a mattress, a blanket, two 
quilts, a pillow, a suitcase containing my underwear, and a 
basket of food. They gave us plenty during their attempts to 
brainwash us. That was the only good thing about the 
"brainwashing" period! 

In the auditorium, I found thirty other prisoners waiting 
further orders. Evidendy , we had been given up as hopeless. 

64 



Now the rough treatment would start again, as it was before 
our trial. In the evening, a covered truck arrived and we were 
ordered to get in, with our luggage. There was no window in 
the back of the truck so we had no idea where we were going . 
When the truck stopped we found ourselves at the Sofia 
railway station. We were locked in a small room which was 
cramped with the thirty of us, but we sat on the floor and tried 
to sleep. 

Next morning we were put on a train for our new 
destination, Sliven. There are two prisons in Sliven, the "old 
prison" in the city proper and the "new prison," where we 
were taken, half a mile from the station. The prison was a 
large, five-story building which originally had been a maca- 
roni factory. It was surrounded by a fifteen-foot-high wall, 
with a watchtower at each corner. It was dark when we 
arrived. We were taken to Department Eight which, as in all 
prisons, is the worst. 

Because the building was not originally a prison, the 
cells were a little larger than the one-man cells at Sofia's 
Central Prison. Ours measured fifteen by six feet, but there 
were fifteen of us in it, and a place had to be found for the 
ever-present bucket, so it was more cramped than anywhere 
else we had been. 

We were packed in like sardines in a can. The first thing 
we did was to measure the walls, then we marked off a 
sleeping space a foot wide for each man. Among the prison- 
ers was a famous Bulgarian poet, Trifon Konieff. He was a 
wonderful, jovial man. We all liked him very much. Trifon 
was so big that he could not possibly sleep in a foot-wide 
space, so each of us gave up one inch of his space, so that 
Trifon could have a little extra. We carefully measured it off. 
This gave us a space exactly eleven inches wide. Because 
there was no floor space for our luggage, our bags and boxes 
were hung up on nails driven into the walls. All the other cells 
were the same. 

At night, we all slept on the same side. If anyone wanted 
to turn over, we all had to turn at the same time, in unison. 
During the day, we sat in our little spaces. This enforced 
idleness gave a wonderful opportunity to talk to the men 

65 



about God. They were almost all eager to know more. 

The only window in the cell was in the ceiling. Even 
though it was always open, the air was hot and stuffy. It was 
summer and the ceD was packed with sweating, perspiring 
men in one hundred degree heat. We wore only undershorts, 
and still the perspiration poured from us. The only relief was 
our half-hour walk in the prison yard once a day. 

It was awful to have to return to the humid, stuffy cell 
after our brief respite outside, but no one resisted. I never 
learned if the Sliven prison was a "discipline" prison, but 
the treatment was much tougher than in the other prisons. 
Now that I had been labelled "unreformed/' the other pris- 
oners and I were back on the "Death Diet.** We received 
only the scanty ten ounces of bread, plus soup which tasted 
even worse than the other soup we had had. It was like eating 
black oil. 

Night Sounds 

There is nothing more frightening than prison imsom- 
nia. In the stillness of the searing hot night, one could hear 
the sounds of the prison. 

There was the uneven breathing of the prisoners packed 
up against one another. It was easy to tell which men were 
having prison nightmares through the uneven breathing. 
Who could know what crushed dreams were theirs? 

There was the measured creak of the corridor floor 
caused by the guards' felt shoes as they walked back and 
forth. From time to time a padlock ground open and there 
were footsteps and whispers. Someone was being taken for 
interrogation or a beating. 

As I lay awake pressed in my eleven inch space on a 
floor full of sleeping bodies, my mind often went to Ruth, 
Rhoda and little Paul. Where were they? What had happened 
to them? Ruth's worn haggard face that time we met before 
the trial haunted me. Were they hungry even now as I lay 
here? Did they have a shelter over their heads? Worst of all, I 
could do nothing to help them. I had been separated from 
them nearly two years and it seemed like an eternity. Thirteen 

66 



more years of separation loomed ahead! 

"O God," I prayed in the stillness of the sleepless 
night, "what will happen to them? Keep them, protect them, 
help them." These nights filled with prison insomnia were 
the worst. Over and over, I would close my eyes and not see. 
I would cover my ears and not hear, but I couldn't turn off my 
mind. 

Someone in a nearby cell, packed as tightly as ours, 
would groan. What were his nightmares, fears and destroyed 
dreams? Stifling hot and smelling of the bucket and the sweat 
of unwashed bodies, its silence threaded with the groans and 
cries of sleeping men, the air was heavy with despair. One 
could only hear the sounds of men who had lost ail and whose 
hopes were that the night would never end, for sleep offered 
the only escape from reality. 

In Sliven, and in the years to come, the nights were 
always the worst. Nighttime was a favorite time for the 
beatings and torture. The worst hours were from eleven to 3 
a.m. One whole floor of one wing was given over to interro- 
gation at night and no doubt equipped with the latest "inter- 
rogation equipment. ' * 

Over the screams of the tortured came the shouts and 
curses of the torturers. Often, I tried putting cotton in my ears 
to drown out the horrible cacophony of distant screams. The 
nights were when men had time to think, to remember what 
might have been. It was at night that many men went mad. I 
could hear their ravings as the mind snapped, refusing to 
work any longer, and the guards would come and take them 
away. Those were the sounds of a prison at night. 

I especially tried to help men through these trying 
nights, and helping them helped me. 

Soon time came for the DS to classify us. Class One 
consisted of political prisoners, pastors, priests and such. 
Class Two, the criminals, murderers, rapists. Then, each 
class was divided into three categories. The very worst 
"criminals" were Class One, Category One. That's where I 
was put. We were singled out for the worst of treatment. 
Each year we were classified. To be transferred to a better 
class, one had to be more inclined toward the new regime. 

67 



During the whole of my prison term, I was kept in Class One, 
Category One. Evidently they gave up on reforming me, but 
it still seemed strange being officially labelled more danger- 
ous than a multiple-murderer. 

But I could see the communists' point. My faith and 
witness were more dangerous to them. They are not ignorant 
men. They recognise faith in God is their worst enemy. For 
13 years I had to sit through lectures on Marxism and com- 
munism. I never "graduated," but stayed in the same class. I 
left prison an illiterate on this subject. It seems I just couldn't 
learn how one builds a communist society. 

There was a large group of men who just gave up, and 
agreed with everything. They were not only transferred to a 
better class, but were released from prison much earlier than 
the others. They had been "reformed" and were considered 
"trained.". 

Sometime afterward, a large group of political and 
religious prisoners in Sliven, myself among them, was or- 
dered to pack. Altogether we were about two hundred and 
eighty persons. We were taken to the station and put into 
three freight cars, while our baggage was put in an open 
truck. 

We were taken to the nearest railway junction and we 
wondered in which direction we would be heading. On the 
open car which carried our luggage stood a brakeman , whom 
I recognized as an old acquaintance. Surreptitiously, I sig- 
nalled to him, asking him if he knew where we were to be 
taken. He replied by marking the frost on a window pane with 
the letter "k." Then I knew that we were on our way to 
Kolarovgrad. 

Kolarovgrad Prison had just been built and in some 
places, it was not quite finished. They had not only one-man 
cells, but two-man cells also. The windows were larger than 
usual, and there were boards on the floors. We were told that 
this prison was intended for political prisoners who were 
discipline problems, and that the treatment would be particu- 
larly severe, so we were expecting brutality. But the officials 
turned out to be more humane than those at Sliven. They 
must have ignored their orders and ruled the prison them- 
selves. 

68 



We were located in the north wing. Our cells were clean 
and well ventilated, and everything was completely new. 
The only bedbugs were those that came in with our luggage. 
(Which were plenty!) Our cell was made to hold twelve 
persons and there were only eight in it, so for the first time 
since being imprisoned we had a good place. Our food ration 
still consisted of half a loaf of bread daily, but the soup was 
simply delicious. Though we could never say we were full, 
we didn't have the hunger pangs we had in Siiven. 

Some of my fellow-prisoners had been high ranking 
officers. One of them had attended an American school in 
Sofia and could speak English very well. Others could speak 
it a little, so all the prisoners in our cell began learning 
English. I ministered to them as their ''prison Pastor/ 1 I 
taught them a beautiful hymn which we all sang in English. It 
goes: 



What a fellowship, what a joy divine, 

Leaning on the everlasting arms; 

What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, 

Leaning on the everlasting arms. 

Leaning, leaning, 

Safe and secure from all alarms; 

Leaning, leaning, 

Leaning on the everlasting arms. 



After a year of horror in Sofia and Siiven, the stay for us there 
was a beautiful testimony to the wonderful grace of the Lord. 
It was like a new life, though I knew it would be short-lived. 

During October, we were allowed to see our loved ones 
for the first and only time that year. Ruth came with our little 
son Paul, who was just at the age when children are minus 
their front teeth . I noticed immediately that Ruth had lost a lot 
of weight. She told me she was at that time working as a 
charwoman for the newspaper Trud ("Work"). To my sur- 
prise, through the double iron grating between us, I was 
allowed to hold little Paul in my arms. Their visit was a tonic 
to me. 



69 




A Gift From God 



Shortly after this visit, I received all my underclothes 
and shirts through the mail. I was greatly disturbed. When 
this happens, it usually means that a man's wife had died. It 
struck horror to ail prisoners, when it happened to them. I 
wasn't allowed to write or receive more than one letter every 
three months, so I wasn't able to find out the conditions at 
home. For three months I never knew from one moment to 
the next if Ruth were dead. I was in terrible torment. If Ruth 
were dead, what about Paul and Rhoda? My fellow prisoners 
tried to console me and convince me that there was some 
other reason, but my despair grew greater. The thought that 
there was no one to take care of my children, who were still 
very young, nearly drove me out of my mind. 

I prayed for grace and left the matter with Him . The next 
morning, carrying the bucket to the toilet, a fellow prisoner 
named Dragan came up to me. He whispered, "Haralan, 
your wife and children have gone to Sweden." Dragan 
worked in the prison office and was in a position to learn of 
things outside the prison, but he had run a big risk in telling 
me news of happenings outside. He would not tell me more 
than that bare piece of information and it took me some time 
to find out the whole story. 

It seems mat the cashier in the office, who was not a 
communist, knew the pastor in Kolarovgrad. The pastor told 
the cashier that Ruth and the children had managed to get 
safely to Sweden and asked him to pass on the news to me. 
The cashier was not allowed any contact with the prisoners, 
so he passed the message to Dragan whose work allowed him 
occasional contact with us. Several days after Dragan had 
told me the news, I received a letter from Sweden from my 
twelve-year-old daughter, which said, "With God's help we 
have come to Sweden and are now in Stockholm." 

I had never known such ecstatic joy in my life! My wife 
and children were delivered — saved from further persecu- 
tion and poverty. The long hand of the DS couldn't reach 
them in Sweden. The heavy burden which depresses and kills 

70 



many prisoners — the cares and troubles of their 
families — had fallen from my shoulders. How I thanked 
God! The whole cell-block rejoiced with me! Even non- 
Christian prisoners were caught up in my joy of all joys and 
said, "Thank God" with me. They shared my happiness. I 
knew I would almost certainly never see my loved ones 
again, but at least they were safe. 

I cannot begin to convey what this meant to me. The 
remaining years in prison were easier to endure. I was no 
longer afraid of the communists. They had me, but they 
could not touch my family! Ruth, Paul and Rhoda were free. 
With this great, crushing load off my shoulders, I determined 
to enlarge my ministry as prison pastor. What could they do 
to me? My wife and children were free. They could torture 
me, but they couldn't touch my one really vulnerable 
spot — my wife and children ! Much suffering and torture lay 
ahead because of my witness for Christ in prison, but no 
longer was I a prisoner. Surely, there were walls and bars 
around me, but no one could take away the inner freedom 
inside me. 

Later, I learned it was the intervention of the Swedish 
government on my wife's behalf that secured her freedom. 
She was a Swedish subject married to a Bulgarian. Only this 
saved Ruth and the children. 

This news was the turning point for me. It was the 
greatest gift God could have given me. The last restraint, the 
fear of bringing suffering to Ruth and the children, was lifted 
from me. Now I would teach, preach, witness and work for 
Christ in every prison they put me in. They had lost their hold 
on me. They had a "different" Haralan Popov now! 

Shortly after this wonderful news, I along with four 
hundred other prisoners were ordered to Persin, an island 
prison in the Danube River, for hard-labor work. We were 
pushed into box cars so crowded that we had to stand the 
whole trip. In the evening, we started on our way to Belene, 
the railroad station nearest the island. The officer in charge 
was so afraid of our possible escape that he insisted on 
closing even the air vents of the freight cars at night! We 
covered about fifty miles during the night and were then 

71 



shunted into a siding where we stayed until late afternoon. 

The day was very hot — over one hundred degrees 
inside the crowded box car. Men panicked and beat on the 
sides of the box car begging for air, for water, but no one 
would help us. Men began collapsing from heat and thirst. 
We were packed so tightly, when a man collapsed, he 
couldn't fall to the floor. There was no room. He remained 
upright, though unconscious. The heat must have risen in the 
afternoon to well over one hundred ten degrees, all in an 
airless box car. 

Finally, as a result of our yelling and knocking, the 
officer allowed the doors to be opened a crack to allow our 
water bottles to be passed out for filling . We covered a further 
thirty miles during the night. The next day, it was the same 
story. We sat on a rail siding from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in horrible 
heat, thirst and exhaustion — always standing. 

At the end of the second day we were parked in a siding 
only six miles from Belene. In the heat more of the prisoners 
lost consciousness. When this happened, the officer finally 
allowed the doors to be opened and the unconscious men 
were carried out and laid on the grass. After they had been 
given artificial respiration, they regained consciousness. 
This incident caused the officer to allow the doors to be left 
open a few inches, and when the sun went down, our journey 
continued. It was dark when we arrived at Belene station, and 
we found armed soldiers everywhere. We took our baggage 
and then marched across the fields to the river, escorted by 
the soldiers. Bent under the weight of our baggage, we could 
barely hold out, but anyone who fell soon scrambled to his 
feet again to avoid being trampled by those marching behind. 

Wet with perspiration, we finally reached the prison's 
administration building which was surrounded with barbed 
wire, and marched in. 

Persin — An Island of Horror 

"I . . . was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the 
word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ' ' (Revela- 
tion 1:9). 

72 



Belene is a village of eight thousand people situated on 
the Danube River which forms the northern border between 
Bulgaria and Romania. The prison administration building 
lay right on the banks of the river. Many of the personnel 
lived there. Four hundred yards off-shore lies the island of 
Persin, pear shaped and about six miles long and two or three 
miles wide. The main island is flanked by two smaller is- 
lands: Sturez, measuring about four hundred yards across at 
its widest point accommodated a women's prison camp; 
Berzina, the other island, was the smallest of the three. 

The western part of Persin and the coastline on the north 
and south were higher than the center part, which contained 
several lakes. The highest part of the island was in the east. 

The whole colony was divided into five different bar- 
racks. Ours was about a mile from the administration build- 
ing. The prison barracks were low huts made of willow 
branches braided together and daubed with a thick layer of 
clay. The roofs were made of dried sunflower stalks and 
straw Each barracks housed five to seven hundred prisoners, 
and all but one were built on the ground. The other was on a 
" plateau" two or three yards high. 

About four and one half miles away on a hill at the 
eastern end of the island was Barracks Number Two. 
Number Three was between the first two and had barns and a 
farmyard. The prisoners who were trusted by the authorities 
tended the cows and sheep there. 

Barracks Number Four was the women's camp on the 
island of Sturez. It was on high ground and well built. In the 
summer of 1952, about one hundred and fifty women lived 
there and took care of the pigs. The fifth barracks was in the 
village of Belene and was for the criminal prisoners. 

It was dark when we arrived at the administration build- 
ing and climbed onto big rafts which were towed to the prison 
island behind a motor boat. During the following summer a 
pontoon bridge was built, which speeded up transport be- 
tween the mainland and the prison island. 

When we reached the prison island, our spirits lifted. 
For the first time, we had no guards behind us, no revolvers at 
our heads. I drank in the fresh night air and lifted my eyes to 

73 



the starlit heavens. My thoughts went back to the days when I 
was free. It seemed like another world. When I reached the 
barracks I lay down on the floor and slept. 

Our first day on the island was spent getting settled. We 
saw that there were towers placed a mile apart all over the 
island, where guards were stationed. A one-hundred yard 
strip along the coast was forbidden territory and anyone 
found there was immediately shot. 

We soon learned Persin was a camp of extreme hard 
labor. Of the six thousand prisoners there, only a few 
hundred survived. The next day we were divided into 
forced-labor battalions. It was harvest time and those who 
had come before us had already cut the forage crop. Our task 
was to harvest and thresh it. Each of us had to harvest eight 
hundred square yards a day, though few of us had ever done 
any threshing before in our lives. The first day I was 
exhausted. I worked fifteen hours straight but still couldn't 
fulfill the quota. After returning to our barracks at nine 
o'clock we had to stand at attention while the foreman lec- 
tured us for not completing the work. The lecture lasted two 
hours more. Late that night we finally got to sleep, only to be 
awakened again at 3 a.m. to begin another day's work. We 
worked from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m. — 18 hours a day. Every 
muscle in my body ached. 

In the marshland, masses of mosquitoes hatched during 
the summer. They descended on us in dark clouds and stung 
us like wasps. The prison leaders were displeased because we 
were not completing the production schedule and ordered our 
food ration to be reduced. This started a vicious cycle. Our 
reduced food rations weakened us more and caused us to 
harvest less. Then, in punishment, our rations were cut still 
again. Many died all around me through overwork and too 
little food. It was a desperate struggle to work — or less 
food. Less food meant less work still, and in turn, even less 
food. Then death. We shared our food with the dying, but 
many died anyway. Guards moved among us in the field 
beating any who were not working fast enough. 

One night, two prisoners escaped and made it across the 
border to the free world. Several days later, two more es- 

74 



caped, but they were caught near the border of Greece and 
brought back. The bravery of these four made it harder for the 
rest of the prisoners . The guards were cruel and never needed 
to answer to the authorities if someone was shot. To frighten 
the prisoners and prevent them from escaping, they often 
simply killed a prisoner at random. We never knew who 
would be next. Just on impulse, a guard would single out a 
prisoner working in our midst, walk over to him, put his rifle 
to his head and pull the trigger. This happened several times 
close to me and once to a dear friend of mine. 

Once, a guard was walking toward me and had his rifle 
pointed at my head and was actually squeezing the trigger 
when another guard called his name, distracting him. He 
walked of! and didn't return. 

When we finished the threshing, several weeks behind 
schedule, they put us to digging the field. Each prisoner was 
ordered to dig up 1 , 120 square yards of weeds a day. With a 
plough we could have possibly done it, but it was impossible 
for us to meet our quota of 1 , 1 20 square yards of weeds with a 
handheld hoe. The heat of late July dried out the ground and 
water holes with the result that drinking water became 
scarce. The heat beat down on us unmercifully. 

After we had finished with the corn, we began in the 
sunflower fields. The field we worked was three or four miles 
from the barracks and each morning and evening we marched 
the distance with guards on both sides of us. Since the whole 
work schedule of the island was behind due to the poor 
condition of the prisoners, the prison director became 
alarmed and ordered a speed-up of the work. Instead of 
marching to the field, we were ordered to run three to four 
miles with guards on horseback chasing us and cracking long 
leather whips on our backs. We staggered into the fields 
almost too exhausted to move. In the evening we were chased 
back to the barracks by the guards on horseback. They took 
great joy in beating the half -dead, staggering line of prison- 
ers. And woe betide any man who fell. The guards set upon 
him with a fury of lashing until ribbons of flesh dangled from 
his back, face and arms. 

This continued until the sunflower crop was harvested. 

75 



It was a very expensive crop in terms of human suffering! 
Again, it shows the low value put on life when men look upon 
mankind as only "matter," with no soul. One day during our 
work among the sunflowers, a little rabbit came hopping by. 
We were starved and like skeletons, we thought only of one 
thing: to pull up a blade of grass to eat. And here comes a 
rabbit! The prisoners all surrounded him and one killed it and 
hid it to take back to the barracks at night. We were eating the 
"Death Diet" and also working. 

In the evening three guards rode up to our work area and 
ordered the one who had killed the rabbit to confess. No one 
did. When the guard realized that no one was going to 
confess, he ordered us back to the barracks at a fast run. By 
the time we managed to get through the lashings and reach 
the barracks, an informer must have told the foreman who 
had killed the rabbit, for the unfortunate man was called 
forth. He was about 55 years of age and very thin. 

They started beating him savagely with a thick club. I 
have seen — and been the victim of — terrible beatings, but 
this poor man was beaten so horribly I couldn't stand to look 
at him or listen to his screams. His screaming was horrifying, 
piercing, almost incredible. It filled all space. Compared to 
his, the cries of a woman in labor were a cheerful sound. 

He was beaten until one of his eyes dangled out of his 
head. I have never seen such cruel and meaningless treatment 
in my life. The prison guards continued beating the old man 
on the head, groin, arms, legs and back until he was uncon- 
scious. We could do nothing but stand there and try to contain 
our feelings. Some prisoners wept with rage and frustration. 
All this because a starving man tried to get extra food. 

Again, I remind my readers, when man is without God 
there is no limit to his depravity or to the depths to which he 
will sink. These guards descended the ladder of humanity 
step by step until they had no humanity or kindness left. I 
fought to contain my anger at seeing this brutal beating . I told 
myself the sick guards were to be pitied, but I confess this 
was one time I had to struggle to control my feelings. 



76 



Secret Message in a Photo 

By the middle of September, I felt I just couldn't stand it 
any longer. I was weak after the hot summer and heavy work, 
I had not received a letter or food parcel from my loved ones 
for about four months. I thought something bad must have 
happened to them. 

One evening, I was told a letter had arrived for me. It 
was from Sweden and came just at the right time to 
strengthen me. There were several pictures of my wife and 
children, as well as a picture of the front of the church in 
London where Ruth and I had been married in 1937. My wife 
and children had been there since and had taken the picture. 
Across the front of the church could be read the words, 
"Prayer changes things." I realized this sign had been 
photographed to assure me that there were friends praying for 
me. It was Ruth's message to me. The censors who went 
through all mail for just such words as those hadn't noticed it 
on the church photograph! 

Ruth was very shrewd getting such messages to me. I 
was more grateful to God for this letter than I would have 
been for a food parcel, even though I was starving. Too often 
these words , ' ' Prayer changes things , " are repeated mechan- 
ically, but they had great meaning to me — there on that 
island of horror. Every day I saw how the Lord's hand 
protected me, so when I received Ruth's letter, my spirit was 
lifted up. Prayer does change things! 

The sign over the church, "Prayer changes things," 
was just the message I needed, During that summer on 
Persin, many prisoners were killed. Two were shot for ven- 
turing onto forbidden territory. A young boy less than four 
feet from me was shot in the leg. One day, as we returned 
from the fields he had stopped to break off an ear of corn. He 
fell to his knees pleading with the guard to let him live, but 
the guard walked up to him and shot him through the head. 

On another occasion a dear friend of mine thought no 
one was looking. He bent down to pull up a blade of grass and 
shoved it in his mouth. A shot rang out and he lay at my feet 
with a huge, gaping hole in his head. There was no rhyme nor 
reason for the killings. 

77 



With the approach of winter, we were transferred to 
work on the construction of an embankment that was to 
encircle the island and protect it from flooding. It was to be 
six yards high and thirty yards thick at the base. The site 
where we were to work was about four miles from the 
barracks and we were forced once again to run the four miles 
with the guards on horseback chasing and whipping us. All of 
this was to be done on a starvation diet. 

The earth for the embankment was carted in crude 
wheelbarrows from the nearby pastures. The minimum daily 
work each man was ordered to do was three to six cubic feet. 
Many collapsed under the strain, and we carried them back to 
the barracks on our backs or in the wheelbarrows. Some- 
times, we were too weak to move those who had fallen and 
the guards left them there until they died. 

One man, a prisoner who had accepted Christ in prison 
through my ministry, fell and I struggled to carry him to the 
barracks on my back. But it was just too much. I struggled 
and managed for a short distance, but could go no further. No 
one else could help. They, too, were too near death. My 
friend and brother in Christ died where he lay. If only I could 
have carried him. I think about him to this day. 

Prison brought great friendships between prisoners who 
shared common depths and sufferings. The best came out in 
many men, especially Christians. There was great warmth, 
care and concern for one another. For example, it was com- 
mon to see a prisoner whose jaw had been smashed by the 
guards being carefully fed by a fellow-prisoner who broke 
the bread into unusually tiny bits for him so he could swallow 
it more easily. Prison brought out the best in most men and 
there was a strong M brotherhood' * together. With Christian 
prisoners it was even more so. 

Mankind's low nature without God hasn't changed. 
There were such people when the Egyptian pyramids were 
built, and when Israel was in captivity in Babylon and during 
the Enlightenment and in Buchenwald, Siberia and Persin. 
During this hot, dry summer, anyone who bent down to break 
off a blade of grass, a leaf of lettuce, anything to eat or chew, 
was immediately shot without warning. But many of us took 
the risk in order to live. 

78 



The summer was over, and it hadn't rained the whole 
time. Then it began to rain continuously and the island 
became a sea of sticky mud. Walking in our home-made 
rubber shoes, which were open and low, was worse than 
ever. We patched and mended our ragged clothes to protect 
ourselves against the coming winter. 

The rains continued until the Danube, which had dried 
up during the summer, again reached its normal level. The 
lakes and ponds filled again and the road to our work fields 
became almost impassable. 

About this time, the Bulgarian bureaucracy, acting on 
an idea they picked up from the Russians, decided that snow 
fences should be built all over the country. We were ordered 
to weave the snow fences from branches. Their purpose was 
to prevent snow from spreading out and wetting the fields. 

The torrential rains poured as we labored. Our rags were 
soon soaked through. Almost the whole island was now 
covered with water. In one month the depth of the river rose 
from three feet to nine feet. 

Our barracks were now sitting in a huge mud puddle 
thirty inches deep. For weeks we lived in icy river water. 

One day, in late November, a light snow mixed with 
rain began to fall and by evening the ground not covered by 
water was covered with snow. The following day the blanket 
of snow became even heavier. Our wet clothes froze. The 
temperature was down to twenty degrees above zero, but still 
we had to work on the construction of the snow fences. 

The Danube continued to rise and many acres of leeks 
had yet to be brought in. Wet from living in water, with our 
clothes frozen hard, we dug the leeks out of the snow with our 
bare hands , or pulled them out of the icy water, depending on 
the weather conditions. During the night the water would 
freeze but the leeks had to be gathered, so we broke the ice 
with our hands and continued working. Several prisoners 
died of pneumonia in these months. 

•*I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I am 
come into deep water, where the floods overflow me" (Psalm 
69:2). 

79 



The Danube continued to rise throughout December, 
threatening to flood the entire prison island and several 
thousand prisoners. The officials were very alarmed about 
the safety of the farm animals. 

Precautions were taken to evacuate the animals if the 
water continued to rise. But, we the prisoners, weren't to be 
evacuated under any circumstances. We were less important 
than the animals! This sounds unbelievable, but we saw 
preparations made to leave us and evacuate the animals and 
the guards. After all, it wouldn't have been their "fault" that 
the flood came, and prisoners were something of which 
Bulgaria had plenty. 

On the smaller island of Sturez, a steel tower was being 
built as part of an electrification project. The foundation had 
been dug and the concrete poured. If it filled with water, it 
could be dangerous, so fifty prisoners including myself were 
taken to the island to pour concrete into the foundation of the 
tower. We worked in three shifts while pumps kept the water 
out of the foundation. Since the work was urgent, the chief 
guard had two policemen go into the village and obtain bread 
for us. This was an acknowledgment of the state of semi- 
starvation in which we were kept. When they had to have 
emergency work projects done quickly, as in this case, we 
were given extra rations of bread. That was the one good 
thing about the rising flood waters. It created so many 
emergencies they gave us an extra two slices of bread a day! 
We prayed for more "emergencies." 



The Day Before Christmas 

On the other side of the island, wooden poles had been 
washed out by the torrents of flood water, now rising menac- 
ingly ever higher, so we were sent to dig new holes and set up 
the poles again. It was now December 24. We worked in icy, 
rapidly flowing water up to our waists to retrieve the floating 
poles and load them onto a raft. 

Having loaded one raft I climbed aboard it and began to 
pole it back to the shore. I was in the middle of the flooded 

80 



river, when suddenly the raft simply came apart beneath me 
and I was deposited in the freezing water. I was a half-mile 
from shore, caught up in the swollen, raging river with a 
heavy coat and boots on and so frozen, I couldn't move. I was 
dragged downstream by the current and went under several 
times, but somehow managed to come back up. I was frozen 
through by the icy water, the boots dragged me down, the 
swift current pulled me along. 

There was no human way out of this. Death was as 
certain as it could be. My arms, my legs, my whole body 
were numb from the icy water. The swift current, the heavy 
boots and coat were dragging me under again and again. Still 
I fought my way back to the surface, only to go under again. 
My strength was completely gone. I gave up struggling. 
Death had its embrace around me. 

With a final breath I cried out, "Lord, help me!" 
Suddenly a surge of strength shot through my frozen, 
exhausted body. I began swimming toward the shore with 
powerful strokes. Incredibly, I was able to pull myself along, 
heavy, sodden boots and all. It was truly God's strength for I 
had none left. A strong swimmer would have had trouble 
making it, much less I in my condition. Yet, I could see I was 
making progress. I said over and over " Thank You, Lord. " 
Later, I remembered that beautiful hymn: 

Though sometimes He leads through waters deep. 
Trials fall across the way. 

Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep. 
See His footsteps all the way. 

Those watching from the shore had already written me off as 
dead and had turned away and gone about their work. After 
all, life was so cheap, one prisoner more or less meant 
nothing. We had seen so many die, death was commonplace. 
I struggled closer and closer to the shore. Finally, I 
could see the shore and saw two figures in black. They were 
nuns. At that time a trial against Catholic priests and nuns had 
just concluded, and they, too, had been convicted of espio- 
nage. More than fifty priests and nuns were condemned to 
prison and two Bishops and two priests were executed. The 

81 



two nuns before me were floundering in the mud at the river 
bank while a woman guard commanded them to keep going. 
The guard brutally kicked one of the nuns, causing her to fall 
fiat where she sank into the soft, oozing mud. She pulled 
herself up with great effort. 

The village of Belene was about a mile and a half from 
us. It was Christmas. The bells of the church began to ring 
out with the glad tidings of the Christian faith. At the moment 
the bells began pealing, the two nuns down at the river bank 
were floundering and sinking in the mud without anyone to 
help them and I, an evangelical pastor, had just used my last 
ounce of strength to swim ashore and lay exhausted. The 
bells seemed to be saying, "God is born in the form of a man. 
God is revealing Himself through His Child." 

I'll never forget that Christmas . I was lying exhausted 
and the two nuns were sinking deeper into the mud. We 
stopped our struggling and listened. It was dark and freezing 
cold. I was almost a solid block of ice. The bells could be 
heard faintly far off in the distance ringing out the message of 
the Savior's birth. 

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I lay there. They were 
tears of joy because I had not drowned and tears of sorrow 
because neither the nuns nor I were here for any crimes we 
had committed. We were here for His sake — He who was 
born in a stable on that night so long ago. 

I thought of the martyrs of the past: of the mothers 
whose children Herod had killed; the saints who were stoned 
to death; the thousands burned to death, bound to stakes; the 
thousands thrown to the lions. Church history is stained with 
the blood of thousands of Christian martyrs because they had 
received God's Son for whom those bells now tolled. These 
martyrs were not blind fanatics, but men and women with a 
faith that lasted unto death. The faith which overcomes death 
has no fear. Instead there is joy and a song ! Martyrs ! I relived 
the past as the bells rang. I looked at the nuns. Tears were 
coursing down their cheeks as well. We wept. We said not a 
word, but we understood each other. 

When the bells stopped, the present reality came rush- 
ing back, but the Voice of God spoke to my heart, "This they 



82 



have done to My children through the ages, and this they do 
to you for My sake.*' 

Christmases in Prison 

That Christmas and twelve others came and passed in 
cold, frozen cells. When I was in solitary confinement on 
Christmas day, I spent the day thinking of Ruth, Paul and 
Rhoda, wondering what they were doing that day, if they 
were well. I never permitted myself the luxury of thinking I 
would ever see them again. I had long ago abandoned ail 
hope of ever being with them again. So on those thirteen 
Christmases, whether in a cell with others or in solitary 
confinement, I never thought of seeing them again. It was 
enough to make a man go mad and many had. 

Christmases I spent trying to lift the spirits of fellow 
prisoners. This was the worst day of the year for everyone. 
Men who were buoyant and strong all year, often lapsed into 
deep despair on Christmas Day. 

After three or four Christmases came and passed, I 
began to spend entire Christmas days as days devoted to 
being a prison pastor to the men and trying to help them meet 
the spiritual crises in their lives which were especially acute 
on that day. 

The main barracks at Persin were built directly on the 
ground, but the waters of the river had not yet reached them 
as they were protected by the retaining wall we had built at 
such cost in human lives during the summer. We had also 
built an embankment thirty yards long, twelve yards wide 
and two yards high, and on this we had built two barracks. 
One night, we were awakened in the barracks by the noise of 
shouts. Someone yelled, "The river has broken through the 
retaining wall! Run for your lives!" 

As we ran out of the barracks and into the yard the water 
was already waist deep and rising fast. Three or four 
thousand men struggled through the icy, brackish water to 
the two barracks built higher up on the embankment, which 
had been built for only a hundred and twenty men! We were 
so jammed that we could hardly move, but we just huddled 



83 



together. There we stood without guards, for they had aban- 
doned us and were on higher ground on the other side. The 
water rose steadily higher. 

There was no attempt to rescue us. If the water con- 
tinued to rise at least several hundred men would die, for 
many were simply too weak to swim. I prayed, asking the 
other Christians among the prisoners to pray with me. At last 
the rising waters stopped and we knew we were saved. I 
thanked God for this. 

Since there were no guards present, the informers and 
members of the 4 'Cultural Society' ' were left without protec- 
tion. The non-Christian prisoners who had suffered so much 
from the informers found a chance to take their revenge on 
them. What followed was brutal. Throughout the night, safe 
from guards, the beating of the informers continued and 
when daylight came, many were bloody and injured. I tried 
to stop the angry prisoners, but their fury at those who 
betrayed them was beyond control. I was roughly pushed 
aside and told, "Pastor, stay out of this!" 

Finally, when the water receded and it was safe the 
guards and the prison director returned. When the director 
learned what had happened, he cursed and raged and swore to 
take revenge. Since no one would confess to taking a part in 
the beating of the informers, the prison director selected 
fourteen men at random to be the victims of his revenge. 

These unfortunate men were placed on a pontoon, 
rowed to the middle of the river and anchored there, stranded 
in the middle of the river. It was bitterly cold. They had only 
very light prison clothes, no food and only river water to 
drink. A guard was posted on the shore to watch them. They 
remained there two whole weeks in terrible cold and suffer- 
ing. On the second day there came a strong, icy wind and the 
temperature sank to below zero. The fourteen men stamped 
their feet and hopped and jumped about as much as they 
could to maintain the circulation of their blood. On the fifth 
day, the prison director took a motor boat into the river and 
cruised around the pontoon with the fourteen freezing, dying 
men, mocking them in the vilest language imaginable. 

84 



The rest of us also had to pay a price for the men who 
beat the informers. We were all ordered out to the river bank 
and forced at bayonet point to stand for ten days, exposed to 
the now sub-zero cold and fierce winds sweeping down the 
river, with nothing to eat or drink and no possibility of lying 
down. It was so cold that even the swollen, raging Danube 
now began to freeze over. It was a horrible, nightmarish 
scene. 

All around me men pathetically tried to get warm. One 
shouted, "Jump around! It will keep you warm." Many 
started jumping in a desperate struggle against the deadly 
cold. Next to me, an older man began jumping. I cautioned 
him not to use up his energy this way. He continued and the 
next day fell at my feet. I tried to help him, but he died in my 
arms. His body lay frozen at my feet for several days before 
the guards came to take it away. 

During the confusion of the flood, one young prisoner 
managed to get away in a boat and rowed to the mainland 
without being seen. He walked about 22 miles to the city of 
Levski before he was caught and brought back to Persin. As 
punishment for escaping, the young prisoner was locked in 
the small kitchen of one of the huts which was so cold that it 
had ice covering half the walls. When he was let out several 
days later, he was so frozen he could hardly walk. He had 
almost frozen to death and had to have both frost-bitten feet 
amputated. 

Finally, after two weeks, the fourteen men on the pon- 
toon were brought back to the barracks. Their feet had frozen 
and they had black spots visible on their skin. One man had to 
have his frozen toes amputated. 



Slave Labor at Persin 

The flood took a heavy toll of livestock on the island. 
That's what really distressed the prison director. It showed 
that the only way to avoid endangering the prisoners and 
animals was to raise the level of the island, so we were 
ordered to carry sand and stone by barrow to the area which 



85 



was to be raised. Freezing and half-starved, we were ordered 
to dig up thirteen cubic feet of frozen earth every day and 
carry it a hundred yards to the new location. 

After we had finished with the raising of the land, we 
were put on a wood-sawing detail on the island of Barzina, 
just north of Persin. Barzina is a little over four miles long 
and two or three hundred yards wide. The trees there are 
unbelievably thick and tall. Every morning we carried our 
pontoon to the water's edge, and every night we carried it and 
the tree trunks we had cut back up the hill! After we got the 
tree trunks on land we had to carry them on our backs and 
shoulders a mile or more to the building site. It took about 20 
hunger-weakened men to carry the tree trunks which were 45 
to 60 feet long and up to two feet in diameter. Many times, I 
fell under the terrible weight of the trees. Dying men 
cursed — and others prayed. I thought, How foolish! If the 
communists want labor they should feed the prisoners . Then 
they would get much more work per man. But they never 
seemed to think of that. 

Heavy snows came and Persin settled into the great, 
white freezing silence of winter. Only bent, broken dark 
figures could be seen moving with great pain, under the 
heavy load of felled trees. Those who collapsed lay where 
they fell, their bodies turning black and frozen hard as stone. 
When their bodies were finally removed, their arms and legs 
remained frozen in the grotesque form in which they had 
fallen. We who lived envied them their escape. 

At last, spring came, reviving our spirits. Nettles and 
other edible greens began to appear through the snow in the 
forests. We also ate frogs, snakes, turtles and field rats. I will 
never forget the taste of field rats. Rat meat is strange, 
sweet-sour and very stringy with tendons. But we were so 
starved, the rats were a feast. 

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of 
hell gat hold upon me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then 
called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee t 
deliver my soul' 1 (Psalm 116:3, 4). 



86 



On March 5, 1953, we noticed during inspection that 
the guards wore black bands on their coat lapels. The chief of 
the barracks announced with a quivering voice that Comrade 
Stalin had died. All guards and Cultural Society members 
went around with mournful expressions. For most prisoners, 
however, Stalin's death was cause for jubilation. We tried to 
hide our feelings, but the informers knew who stood where, 
and the guards went to work on those who had shaken hands 
or not looked sufficiently sad during the announcement. 
Many men were badly beaten that night because they didn't 
look mournful enough. 

One old man who faced life imprisonment laughed 
when he heard the news, and laughed madly throughout the 
vicious beating he received. 

After Stalin's death, the guards became worse. The 
reason was their own insecurity. Stalin had been more than a 
leader to them; he was a higher being whom they worshiped. 
Now that their god had died, their emotions of anger and fear 
had to be expressed somehow. We were conveniently at 
hand, so we were the victims. We prisoners were blamed for 
all wrong as though we had caused Stalin's death. 

Here I must say that I have found in the free world the 
feeling that, certainly things were bad under Stalin, as even 
Khrushchev confessed, but things since Stalin have im- 
proved. This is totally untrue. The punishment and suffering 
became less extensive for a while, then more clever and 
subtle and dangerous. We experienced it immediately. To- 
day, millions in communist lands are suffering as badly as we 
did, only it is more subtle torture. Children are taken from 
Christian parents for life. Is this not torture? In the com- 
munist world today, Christians are tortured and imprisoned. 
True Christian leaders die in prison of " natural causes. ' ' The 
overall suffering is worse today in many communist lands 
than it was under Stalin. 

Into the Death Chamber 

Our torture became like a pendulum. It swung to less 
persecution for a while, then back again. 

87 



One hundred prisoners were selected including myself, 
to form a "punishment brigade" and we were put in special 
barracks. Every day the punishment became more severe. 
One day we were ordered to bring out all our belongings. 
These were searched and all food given to the gypsies in 
another barracks. Even our daily bread ration was denied us. 
Then we were marched to a warehouse, ordered to take off 
our pants and overcoats, and given ragged and threadbare 
clothes in exchange. The pants were so tight we were not able 
to button them, and we had to hold them up with one hand. 
The purpose of all this was to destroy the last bit of our 
self-respect, but we marched proudly through the yard with 
our heads held high — and our pants held up. 

On April 20 we were shut up in a room and put on a 
starvation diet of ten ounces of bread and a few spoonsful of 
bean soup from which the beans had been strained. Here we 
sat day and night with nothing to do and barely enough food 
to keep us alive. It soon became clear that we were to starve 
to death. Time was our fearful enemy. 
The clock stopped. 

We sat completely still, the utter silence being broken 
only by the labored breathing of doomed men. We were left 
totally alone, no food, little water. One week passed, then 
two. Suddenly, we would hear a noise and every weakened 
head turned. I realize my frequent use of the word "sudden- 
ly'' may sound monotonous, but it can't be helped. Clumsy 
as it is, it describes the situation. In the damp world and 
stagnation of our sepulchre, the guards would from time to 
time suddenly invade the cell to remind us that, unlike the 
normal dead, we could be tormented again and again, physi- 
cally and mentally, subtly and brutally, alone or together, 
day and night. 

Perhaps our physical suffering, the lack of food, water 
and air clouded our consciousness through those long weeks, 
but it seemed the world stopped as we sat literally waiting for 
death. 

Finally, on May 8, we in the "punishment brigade" 
were to be transferred to Barracks Number Two, while the 
concentration camp prisoners took our place in Number One. 



88 



Separated from the main body of prisoners, we marched the 
four and one-half miles to Barracks Number Two, with an 
escort of guards on horseback who chased us as usual with 
long leather whips. 

I sensed a dark object racing toward my face from the 
side as the jagged end of a long whip tore across my face 
leaving a stream of blood. "Faster! Faster!" shouted the 
guards on their horses. I remembered in a flash Jesus being 
beaten with the whip and in a moment of lucid thought, 
between gasps of breath, prayed, "Lord, help me to bear it 
for Your name's sake!" For two hours I ran, staggered and 
fell along with the biting lash of the great black whips cutting 
through prison clothing and flesh like a knife through butter. 
After two hours, the haggard, beaten "punishment 
brigade," with me in the rear, reached our barracks and fell 
exhausted and bleeding to the floor. 

Barracks Number Two lay well above the floodwaters 
of the Danube and was surrounded by barbed wire. On the 
east and west sides were high towers manned day and night. 
Near the entrance gate we saw a sign, loosely translated: 
"Man is something to be proud of " — a quotation from 
Maxim Gorki. I was struck by the irony of this quotation here 
in a communist prison, where thousands of men were treated 
like animals. But the words themselves contain a real truth. 
God's Word teaches that man is the crown of creation. There 
is nothing on the face of the earth greater than man. It is 
strange that men who refuse to receive the Creator and who 
don't consider a human being to be of any value had written 
those words on the wall. 

The gate opened and we were let in. When we looked 
behind us we saw another quotation by Maxim Gorki: ' 'If the 
enemy doesn't surrender, he must be annihilated." 

I thought about the contradiction in the two phrases, 
reflecting the division in the mind of the writer. By this, one 
can understand the chasm between communism in theory and 
communism in practice. The first quotation showed com- 
munist theory in its effort to create an earthly paradise. The 
second phrase showed the harsh reality. On the one hand, 
man is something to be proud of; on the other, he is an enemy 
who must be annihilated! 

89 



This is the difference between communism in theory 
and communism in reality. Within several minutes, four or 
five thousand men had been gathered inside the barbed wire 
enclosure. We were called enemies, because we hadn't sur- 
rendered and hadn't permitted the communist ideals to 
triumph over our minds and hearts. Communism demands 
complete conformity and subservience. We had refused to 
conform and were the vilest enemy. According to the words 
on the guardhouse, these men, at one time, had been some- 
thing to be proud of. In reality the quotation is a good 
argument against communism. It hurt us that only we, the 
enemies of communism, could read them. 

After several days, we discovered that prisoners from 
other brigades were digging a deep hole near our barracks. 
We watched the progress of the deepening, widening hole 
with curiosity. We had no idea what its purpose was. When it 
was completed, a group of workmen began building in the 
deep cavity under the direction of a former building contrac- 
tor. Then the word came by prison grapevine that this was a 
special punishment pit being prepared to accommodate the 
penal brigade — us! Looking at the forbidding pit, I asked 
God for special strength. Little did I know I was to spend the 
next 9 months in the almost airless pit jammed with starving 
men fighting for every breath. With all I had seen and 
experienced of man's inhumanity to man I was still surprised 
at man's creative and satanic genius at finding new ways to 
torture his fellow-man. 

When I preach salvation today I do it with a new fervor. 
For 13 years I lived with everyday experience of how low 
men can sink without God. Man has the capacity to rise to the 
greatest spiritual heights but he also has the capacity to sink 
to the lowest, most vile levels. No animal has this "range." 
Only man. 



Nine Months in the Pit 

' 'Arid they took him, and cast him into the pit: and the 
pit was empty, there was no water in it" (Genesis 37:24). 

90 



The pit was a huge hole in the ground about 10 feet 
deep. The sides of the pit were lined with heavy timbers to 
prevent caving in and the ceiling was made of thick wooden 
beams stretching from one side of the hole to the other. In 
between the beams were planks of wood with the small 
cracks daubed with clay. It was air tight. There were no 
windows, of course, and no air vents. The "door" was a 
1 'trap door' ' in the ceiling, 20 inches wide. It was the only air 
inlet. The pit was divided by upright beams and iron bars into 
two parts, with a passageway between. On one side were 
one-man cells, measuring 9 by 6 feet. On the other was one 
big room, 60 by 12 feet. 

After it was completed we were told that we were to 
be punished in a new way. (The prison grapevine had told us 
in advance.) All 100 of us were led out single file and 
"dropped' ' through the trap door onto the damp, sandy floor 
of the pit. On one side of the passageway stood a barrel of 
drinking water, on the other side was the barrel which served 
as the toilet for 100 men. The floor was a layer of cold, damp 
sand. In the totally dark, hot, airless hole, we soon removed 
all our clothes except our undershorts, and lay on the cool 
sand gasping for air. 

There we awaited death. The only indication of time 
was the morning and evening meal consisting of our bread 
ration and "soup" water with not even a bean in it, and a 
smaller amount than before. 



The Incident of the Bean 

Once, by accident or oversight, a single bean was left 
floating in the "soup" of one man. What rejoicing by the 
man in whose bowl it was found! You would have thought it 
was a huge roast of beef. But only someone who has been in 
such a prison can know the significance and meaning of 
discovering one bean floating in water "soup." We all re- 
joiced with him over the bean. Men who have nothing will 
grasp at any straw. 



91 



It was now Spring, and the accumulated heat of the 
airless pit became a stifling oven, fed by the still, decayed air, 
heavy with the heat, perspiration and odor of 100 bodies 
gasping for air in a deadly struggle for the next breath. 

After several days, some of the older prisoners became 
unconscious. We beat on the trap door to attract attention, 
and when the guards opened the door and lowered them- 
selves into the mass of wriggling bodies they found 10 
prisoners unconscious. These men were taken outside to be 
revived. As soon as they came to they were thrown back in 
again. I lay on the floor of the pit, burying my face deeply in 
the sand, trying to breath the air trapped in the loose sand. 

The next day we had to beat on the door three times as 
our friends fainted in the heat or through lack of oxygen. It 
was clear all would soon die under present conditions. But 
they didn't want us to "escape" them that easily through 
death. They always wanted us to die their way, not ours. So 
the following day we were removed from the pit and returned 
to the punishment barracks for several days while workmen 
made ventilation holes in the roof of the dungeon. We looked 
like the "Legion of the Dead/* Our brief respite was soon 
over and again we were lowered into the pit, one by one. 
While there was a little more air, we still fought for every 
breath and the pit was again full of the sounds of 100 men 
gasping for breath. 

We remained there day and night through May and June 
in total blackness. We had all lost weight and looked like 
pallid skeletons by then. 

But our labor was needed. In early July we were taken 
from the dungeon each morning and put to work filling a 
small lake with dirt. When the other prisoners saw us emerg- 
ing from the pit like sick moles from the earth, they were 
horrified by our appearance. They were in such bad shape 
themselves, we must have looked horrible. We were so weak 
that we could move only a few shovelsful of dirt at a time in 
the wheel barrows, but the fresh air and sunshine were a 
blessing. 

During July the authorities began building an embank- 
ment around the island at great speed. The prisoners who 



92 



could not do two days work in one day were thrown into the 
pit with us, though we were already crowded with wasted 
bodies. The new arrivals were put in the big room, while we 
"old-timers," all 100 of us, were placed in the one-man 
cells. In the mornings the new prisoners were taken out to 
work, and in the evenings brought back to the dungeon, but 
we were kept behind, spending every day and night in total 
darkness, except for occasional shafts of light when the 
trap-door was opened and closed. 

There were 17 of us in each stifling hot * ' one-man" cell ! 
We were literally piled on top of one another. Yet, living as 
starved moles deep in the earth, there was an amazing spirit 
of brotherly love among us. 

With 17 men in a one-man cell, it was impossible to lie 
down. Sleep became impossible, so I said to the men, "We 
can't all sleep at once. We must sleep in shifts. Half should 
sleep on the floor while the other half crowd against the walls 
in the smallest space possible. When those sleeping finish, 
they can crowd together and those standing can sleep." 

They accepted my suggestion and half stretched out and 
slept and half stood packed tightly against the bars as they 
slept. In this way, we all managed to get some sleep, fitful 
though it was. 

As the weeks passed, we began to be summoned, one by 
one, before the DS and asked to become informers. My turn 
came and I entered the office of our former barracks chief, 
Boris MitefT. There was another young man present. MitefT 
said "Comrade Popov, I would like you to meet Comrade 
Tritchkov." The alarm bells rang in my head. They had 
addressed me as "Comrade." I knew I had to be very 
careful. Tritchkov asked me how my family was, then said, 
"Comrade Popov, we have decided to free you from the pit, 
since we feel you will be more sensible and obliging in the 
future." 

I couldn't believe my ears! Hope welled up within me, 
even though I fought it, knowing there was a condition. 

No more torture . . . no more stifling hot pit, I 
thought. Then Tritchkov continued, "We only want you to 
do us a little favor. When we let you go, we want you to go to 



93 



the barracks and give us a written report on the condition of 
the prisoners there and what they talk about." 

So thafs it, I thought. 

This amounted to becoming an informer and col- 
laborator. The seemingly innocent favor was to cover what 
would have been my spiritual surrender. They had temporar- 
ily broken my will physically at the trial, but they had never 
brainwashed or "reformed" me. I had held out this long and 
I was determined not to give in now. Yet I knew this was the 
most decisive choice in my life; either to accept the invitation 
and be freed from the pit so that I could come out in the fresh 
air and the sun, or to decline to do the little "favor," and 
remain faithful to my God and retain the confidence of my 
fellow prisoners and probably die in the pit. There was no 
other option, and under the present condition, death was only 
a matter of time . I had begun to black out from time to time in 
the pit, clear signs of lack of air and a collapsing respiratory 
system. 

For a moment, I closed my eyes in silent prayer. The 
two men awaited my answer. Suddenly God's Word came to 
me: ". . . that the trial of your faith, being much more 
precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with 
fire, might be: found unto praise and honor and glory at the 
appearing of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:7). 

It was completely clear to me then that if I said * 'yes" I 
would become an apostate and lose my faith and my hope in 
God. 

I gave a concise answer: "No." That was all I said. 

Tritchkov's cordial expression immediately disap- 
peared. He said, "Popov." (The title "Comrade" was now 
suddenly dropped.) "Don't answer too quickly. This is a 
serious matter. I warn you, think a little more about it. You 
do want to see your family again, don't you?" 

I answered, "You know that I am a pastor. I believe in 
God and serve Him. I am a pastor to these men. And now you 
want me to report to you all they tell me. Never could I do 
that. " I went on, "Do what you want to me and this body. It 
is but clay. But I will never deny my faith." 

94 



Tritchkov clenched his fists and roared, "Then you will 
rot in that pit! You will never get out!" I had heard those 
words before and God had overridden them once and could 
do so again. 

So it was back to the pit. In August, dysentery struck us. 
It lasted for a month and left us like skeletons covered with 
skin. Never could I describe the inferno that was the pit. Men 
lay like the dead, not moving and gasping for air. The 
horrible smell from the overflowing cans was overpowering. 
Almost total darkness 24 hours a day. Seventeen men in 
one-man cells. Fed only "soup" which was flavored water. 
It was like a scene out of Dante's "Inferno." The sounds of 
men gasping for one more breath filled the pit. How long 
could this go on? We had already been down here for six 
months! Some, who lapsed into unconsciousness and then 
slipped into death, were the fortunate ones. 

At the end of August, a new prison director took charge 
and one day as the soup was poured into our cups, one of the 
men shouted, "There's a bean here!" You can't imagine 
what that one bean meant. At last we had a bean or two in the 
"soup." 

Apparently, we were more valuable alive than dead. 
They needed our labor and began releasing us, early in 
September, for hard labor, a few at a time. On November 30, 
I was released. I had been in the darkened, steaming pit for 
nine months! Only God kept me alive. 

Tritchkov 's prediction — like the earlier ones — that I 
would rot there was not fulfilled. Our lives and destinies do 
not depend on human ambitions and predictions, but on a 
higher will and power. God opened the door of the pits. Now 
it was back to the regular routine in prison. 



My Work as a Prison Pastor 

Conditions in prison changed little by little for the 
better. We had a little more food, but still not enough for a 
grown man. The physical beatings and torture became less 
frequent, but the "brainwashing" efforts increased. The 



95 



emphasis changed to more subtle psychological torture. Dur- 
ing all my years of imprisonment, I had used every occasion 
possible to serve as a '"Prison Pastor' ' to the prisoners. 

Since I had been removed from my pulpit, I was deter- 
mined my pulpit would be wherever I was. 

With the improvement in food and the new strength it 
gave me, I found I could increase my ministry in prison; and I 
had more energy to witness and minister to the men. Up until 
this time, I was too weak from fighting for life. With the 
easing of conditions somewhat, my ministry started in a 
much increased scale. I am sure the communists didn't intend 
this, but it was the result of new-found energy. Soon, I was 
running a regular '"church" in prison. My "congregation" 
were men who were in dire need, spiritual and physical. My 
"church" was a cell, the prison exercise yard, or anywhere 
we could meet. We always had to camouflage the purpose of 
our gathering. God abundantly blessed this ministry and time 
and time again, a prisoner would say to me, "Pastor, I've 
been listening and thinking about what you've been telling us 
and I want to serve Christ, too." These were the moments 
that I lived for and I had the joy of bringing many to Christ in 
the various prisons but especially there at Persin. 

Where a man expressed his interest in Christ, we would 
pray together wherever we were. If it were in the fields where 
we were working, we would go down on our knees, pretend 
we were looking closely at something on the ground, but 
actually we were praying. 

One day, while I was praying with a prisoner in the 
field, a guard rode up on his horse and shouted, "What are 
you men doing there?" 

I replied, "Looking at the harvest." 

He didn't know I meant a spiritual harvest! 

Men in prison are at the end of themselves. In normal 
life men have wives and children and jobs. This, plus mate- 
rial things, can dull a man's sense of his need for God. But in 
prison all this was taken away. Men had time to think. Their 
values became clear in prison and many genuinely realized 
their need of God. It was a very fruitful field for a Prison 
Pastor. 



96 



But more than anything else, I needed a Bible or Testa- 
ment or gospel for my ministry with the men. The Word of 
God held the answer to their needs, but I didn't have a Bible 
and it was impossible even to hope to get one. I prayed, 
"Lord, these men need Your Word. These are eternal souls. 
God, I'm doing my very best but they need Your Word. " I 
left it in God's hands. No prison bars can stop Him. The 
impossible is the possible with God! So I left it with God. 

"Thy words were found, and I did eat them: and thy 
word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart' ' 
(Jeremiah 15:16). 

One day I noticed that Stoil, the man whose bed was 
next to mine, had something in his hands. I couldn't tell what 
it was, but it looked like a little book. Then I saw what he was 
doing. Stoil was tearing a page out of the book in which to 
roll a cigarette. To my astonishment I saw that it was a New 
Testament! 

I had not seen a Scripture portion for five years! Instinc- 
tively I grabbed it from Stoil and looked at it. Stoil started to 
grab it back as tears flowed down my cheeks. He stopped, 
caught with surprise at what it obviously meant to me. 

"Stoil," I asked, "Where did you get this book?" 

"When we were transferred here from the first barracks 
area, I found it in a trash can." 

I said, "Stoil, please give me the Book." 

"No," he answered firmly, "I'm reading it." He 
grabbed it from my hands. 

But I knew he wanted the thin paper only for use as 
cigarette paper! I couldn't bear the thought of God's Word 
which I had not seen for five years being used as cigarette 
paper. 

"Stoil, I will give you all the money I have for the 
book." At this particular time we were able to keep a little 
money on hand at times to buy from the prison canteen. 

When I offered Stoil all the money I had his eyes 
widened. The he brightened and answered: "Pastor, since 
you want it so much you may have it. Here, take it!" Then I 



97 



held it! God's Word! I wept before the men and they turned 
their heads so as not to embarrass me. 

For five years I had starved physically, but I had starved 
even more spiritually, and I can tell you the spiritual hunger 
is more painful than the physical. Now I began to take the 
advice of Ezekiel 3:3 " . . . cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy 
bowels with this roll that I give thee. . . . Then did I eat." 

I had given my life to God in 1926. From that day until 
the day I was arrested, God's Word had been my inseparable 
daily companion. Then, abruptly, I had been cut off from it 
for five years. I offered Stoil all my money for the New 
Testament, but I would have given him my arm or leg if he 
had asked for it! That's what God's Word meant to me 
then — and now. 

What an indescribable loss it is to be without a Bible or 
Testament! During my whole time in prison I felt an empti- 
ness and sharp, almost physical pain at being denied the 
Word of God. I had, of course, read God's Word my whole 
Christian life, and knew verses and longer portions, but 
because of the torture and beatings I had been through and the 
long time I had been separated from God's Word, I had 
forgotten certain parts. Strangely, torture often has the effect 
of clouding the memory. I noticed this effect very often. 

I knew I wouldn't be able to keep the New Testament for 
long. Eventually the prison guards would find and destroy it. 
But as long as I remained here on the island I could hide it out 
in the fields, in the straw and hay. Each day I hid it in a 
different place so they wouldn't notice a pattern. After hiding 
it in straw and hay I began to dig holes, put up a marker of 
some kind and dig it up to read. By all means, I knew I had to 
keep it in the fields because our cells were often searched. 
But since my best chance to read it was late at night in my 
cell, I took the risk of taking it back to the cell with me, 
praying all the while there would be no surprise inspection 
that night. This also gave me more opportunities to read to 
the prisoners. 



98 



Memorizing 47 Chapters 

Realizing I wouldn't have the Testament for long, I 
decided to memorize as much of it as possible. I began to 
"eat" God's Word, memorizing many verses every day. 
Everywhere I went I had the Testament with me. I always 
found occasion to study it. First, I memorized 1 Peter, then 
Ephesians, 1 John, the gospel of John, Romans 1, 5 and 8, 1 
Corinthians 13 and 14, and 2 Corinthians 5. Forty-seven 
chapters in all. 

When I was later moved to a regular prison, it was 
impossible to hide the Testament any longer. But by then I 
was almost a "walking New Testament." Now with God's 
Word I began greatly to enlarge my ministry to my fellow 
prisoners. During the years ahead, God prospered my minis- 
try in prison as I used every possible opportunity to minister 
to the men about me. Of course, it had to be "underground" 
ministry, for it was punishable by beatings or starvation. 

It was particularly dangerous work, as I never knew 
who the informers in our midst were. I wondered what to do 
about the problem of informers. If I were cautious, the men 
would sense I was fearful and my Christian influence would 
be harmed. Then I decided, "Well, the informers need the 
Word of God, too!" Let them hear it also, If they talk, they 
talk. 

From that day on I never permitted myself to think of the 
dangers of informers. Of course, many times I would be 
called to the prison director's office and told, "Popov, we 
know you held a secret religious meeting in your cell! We 
know that. When will you ever learn?" 



Preaching By Prison Telegraph 

In prison we had developed a * ' Prison Telegraph . ' ' One 
existed in most prisons because in prisons, communication 
with one another is very important. This was the way prison- 
ers passed news along the "prison grapevine." The prison 
telegraph consisted of a crude "Morse code. * ' One tap on the 

99 



wall stood for the letter "A." Two taps were "B." Three 
taps were "C" and so on, all the way through the alphabet. 
To say something with the letter " V" in it took ages! Yet, it 
worked. 

Left alone, I had an idea. If the Prison Telegraph could 
be used to spread rumors and news, why couldn't it be used to 
spread the Gospel? I took my tin drinking cup and began 
tapping on the wall and waited. Sure enough, in just a few 
moments, there came a tapping sound from the other side. 

4 * What is your name?" I tapped. 

"M-I-T-S-H-E-V" he replied. 

4 'How long have you been there?" I tapped. 

"Three weeks," he tapped back. 

I soon developed a special "technique" for tapping. If 
it were discovered by the guards, I would be stopped. So, I 
stood up in the cell with my back leaning on the cell wall, as if 
I were resting and tapped with the cup in my hand behind me. 
This way I could keep my eye on the Judas-hole and im- 
mediately stop if I heard or saw the little door over the 
Judas-hole open. I told Mitschev to listen because I had 
something very important to tell him. 

He tapped back that he was ready. 

I asked him if he were a born-again believer in Christ. 
"No," he replied. 

"Have you heard that Christ died for our sins?" 

"Only in the Orthodox Church when I was a boy," 
Mitshev replied. 

"Listen," I tapped, "because I want to tell you what 
Christ can do for you." 

Then, for the next three days, interrupted only by sleep, 
I "preached" a message of God's love and Christ's salvation 
to Mitshev. After we stopped for a night, Mitshev would start 
by tapping, a question such as, "But, Pastor, how can my 
sins be gone? I don't understand." This was good! Mitshev 
was thinking. 

On the fourth day, Mitshev tapped back, "I am ready 
now to believe on Jesus, pray for me. I am ready to accept 
Christ. " I told him to get on his knees in his cell and I would 
get on mine in my cell and we would pray together. A few 



100 



minutes later, Mitshev tapped back. "I do thank God. I have 
given my life to Him. * * After his conversion, I built his faith 
for 3 more days until I was taken back to my regular cell. All 
of this was by tapping with a tin cup. Not one audible word 
was ever said. 

I never saw Mitshev, but I knew he had found Christ. 

After this, I tapped the Gospel almost up to the day of 
my release and came to welcome visits to this punishment 
cell because of the opportunity it gave me to witness to those 
in the next cells by tapping the Gospel. In the many years to 
come I witnessed and preached the Gospel very often by 
Prison Telegraph tapping with a tin cup on the cell walls. 
Using my "back against the wall, eyes on the Judas-hole" 
technique, I never once was caught. 

Many men whom I never saw told me on the Prison 
Telegraph they had gained new strength and faith in God. For 
this I praise God. 

After the New Year of 1954 came the most cold winter 
months. The temperature dropped to twenty degrees below 
freezing and the snow piled up to a depth of three feet. We 
had to work as usual. We shoveled snow all day, then 
watched the blizzard cover the roads again. One night was so 
cold that even though we wrapped ourselves up in blankets 
and pelts, many of us had frostbitten hands, feet and noses 
and ears. 

In spite of the swift current, the Danube froze. Two 
young boys tried to escape even though all tracks were visible 
in the snow. They were caught, handcuffed and put into the 
punishment cell. The handcuffs had spiked teeth on the 
insides which cut into the flesh at the slightest movement. 

It was still bitter cold, and after ten days, the hands and 
feet of the two boys were blue and in danger of freezing. The 
boys screamed for help and a doctor was called, but ail help 
was useless. They were taken to the hospital where the doctor 
amputated every one of their fingers. Unable to work any 
more, they were transferred to a prison on the mainland. 

A veterinarian was punished along with the boys. He 
did not have handcuffs on so only his feet were frozen. The 
doctor had to amputate everything but his heels. He was 



101 



released after a couple of months and was able to walk again 
with the help of crutches. 

At the end of March, the snow melted and the ice on the 
Danube began to break up. The lower part of Persin became 
flooded and Barracks Number Two was affected. The water 
remained on the island a long time and all work had to be 
stopped. It was a wonderful opportunity for the prisoners to 
rest, and a wonderful opportunity to witness for Christ with- 
out the interruption of hard labor. 

One day I felt a sudden pain in my right hip which the 
doctor diagnosed as a severe attack of sciatica. He said that 
the joints themselves were infected. The pains grew more 
unbearable each day. I was given Novocain and aspirin, but 
nothing seemed to help. It felt as if a knife had cut through 
flesh and bone. During July the summer heat began and the 
pain in my leg was reduced by sunbathing. I managed to get 
around on crutches. 

Until the end of August, I rested. Then I was taken to a 
hospital and given special medicine sent to me from Sweden 
by way of my brother. Gradually the pain subsided. I was 
able to walk with a cane, and felt pain only when I stood on 
my bad leg. 

On October 17, the sciatica pain suddenly left me. Ruth 
later wrote to me that on just this day, she had awakened 
early. It was the day of our wedding anniversary, and as she 
prayed, her thoughts were naturally on me and my illness. 
Ruth doesn't find it easy to cry but she cried then, and her 
fervent prayer was heard, for I was healed the same day. 
Answers to prayers sometimes come faster than we dare to 
believe. 

At the end of November, I was released from the hospi- 
tal, but I still couldn't work. On February 26, 1955, together 
with 50 others who were also unable to work, I was put 
aboard a box car on a train which would take us to different 
prisons in Bulgaria. 

The joy of leaving Persin was almost as overwhelming 
as when I was later freed. What memories I had left back on 
that island — the bad times and the good times. Especially 
was I thrilled to know I was leaving behind many prisoners 

102 



who had found Christ through my ministry. 

Together with the 50 other disabled veterans of Persin I 
strode down the side streets of Belene to the station, some 
three miles away. Though we were ill, our spirits were high. 
Anything was better than Persin, we thought. 

The prison at Varna where I was taken was several miles 
outside the city and surrounded by vineyards. It was often 
called "the monastery" because of its distinctive red brick 
exterior. 

At Varna there was a large sign which read, "Today's 
prisons in the People's Republic of Bulgaria do not serve for 
punishment but for retraining." I had already proved I was 
not a good subject for retraining. 

The superintendent of the prison was called Tchipaiev, 
after the hero of a Russian film. To this day I don't know his 
real name. Tall and thin, with a swollen face, he was known 
and feared as one for torturing prisoners rather than "retrain- 
ing" them. Seldom did we see him sober. Later, I heard he 
died from alcoholism. 

We were taken to a big dormitory which had previously 
been furnished with 10 beds on each side with a wooden table 
in the middle. The beds had been replaced with wooden 
bunks and now offered accommodation for 25 prisoners, but 
we numbered between 40 and 50, The table was taken out 
and some had to make their beds on the floor. 

I shall never forget how it felt to wash off the dirt from 

Persin! It was like a snake changing its skin. To take a 

shower, to wash my hands before I ate, to sleep in a bunk 

rather than on a cement floor — this was so wonderful! And 

' so temporary, as I was to learn later. 

We were given no work, so I had time to read my New 
Testament more than usual and memorized large portions, 
aware I couldn't hide it forever. I was in a desperate "race" 
to memorize as many chapters as possible before the inevita- 
ble discovery and confiscation. One unpleasant innovation at 
Varna was the frequent propaganda lectures. Almost every 
day, a number of the "Cultural Society" lectured us for a 
couple of hours on rehabilitation. The prisoners hated it. 
There were such "exciting" topics as "The History of the 



103 



Soviet Union Communist Party' ' and "The History of the 
Bulgarian Communist Party," 

We were given communist newspapers, parts of which 
were marked to be read. I read everything but those parts. We 
were forced to read editorials, articles on agriculture and on 
the construction of factories — on everything which pro- 
moted communism and its goals. 

Once we read that a delegation of Bulgarian com- 
munists had visited China. It was reported that they greatly 
praised the communists' victorious crusade in China. Among 
other things, the article reported about rice cultivation there. 
It seems the communists there had such extraordinary grains 
of rice that one could reap 100 pounds of rice from every 
three square feet. A friend and I calculated that if we poured a 
hundred pounds of rice on an area of three square feet, there 
would be a layer six inches thick! I read this discovery to the 
barracks full of men and all roared with laughter except one. 
We then knew who the "resident informer" was. 

The food got better, and we could buy certain things we 
wanted in the canteen. My brother, Ladin, who had finished 
five years of imprisonment, and was now serving as an 
underground pastor, often brought food parcels. 

I didn't care about the communists' motives for giving 
us more food. I was only grateful for the added strength to 
carry out my work for God in the prison. 

Another significant development was a week of meet- 
ings between the Secret Service and the Prison Welfare 
Department. Prisoners were called in for new hearings, usu- 
ally a sign that release was imminent. A first group — those 
arrested in connection with Tito's break with Russia — had 
been released in 1955. In May, 1956, another big group was 
freed, including 400 prisoners from Belene and 80 from 
Varna. 

Then came the Hungarian Revolution which quickly 
turned to a blood bath. The communists feared it might 
spread to Bulgaria and the other communist countries, so the 
releases stopped, arrests and trials went on, and the old 
prison tactics were resumed. The pendulum was swinging 
back again. Thus the short-lived hope for better conditions 



104 



died amongst the blood and death of the Hungarian Revolu- 
tion. The cells filled up again. 

At the end of August, the political prisoners were 
gradually removed from Varna. I was in the last group, with 
82 others. At the station we were put into two freight trucks. 
The next evening we got off the train at Stara Zagora, and 
were taken by truck to the prison there. 

I Lose My New Testament 

At Stara Zagora we were placed in one man cells; six to 
a cell. It was most unpleasant there because they often had 
surprise inspections in the middle of the night. This caught us 
in the middle of Bible study meetings late at night. The 
guards wore soft cloth shoes and we couldn't hear them 
coming. Shortly after we arrived, the cell door was opened 
and we were all taken to the toilet and locked in. When we 
returned to the cell we found all our bags had been opened 
and the contents piled in the middle of the floor. Even the 
mattresses had been ripped open! Everything written or 
printed was gone, including my Testament! 

What a loss, but I was so happy that by this time I had 
memorized 47 chapters of God's Word. They were hidden in 
my heart where they could not be taken from me. These 47 
chapters were my "Bible." 

One day an imprisoned Catholic priest told me there was 
an old Bible in the library. This was unbelievable! A Bible in 
a communist library! Evidently the prison officials had no 
idea it was there. I rushed to the library at the first chance and 
tried not to look too excited as I took it back to my cell. I kept 
it for several weeks. All my cell mates began to read it; then 
the prisoners in the adjacent cells; and soon everyone in the 
prison block wanted to read it. I passed it through the bars 
from one cell to another. These men "devoured" the Scrip- 
tures. In freedom many had refused to read God's Word. 
Now, they hungrily read its words of blessings. We circu- 
lated the Bible for weeks . It passed through countless hands . 

Finally, of course, the news got back to the Prison 
Director and he exploded with rage! 

105 



Bible Classes in the Prison Yard 

It was a constant challenge to me to find new oppor- 
tunities to minister to the continual change of prisoners. New 
ones would come in and older men would be taken out to new 
prisons or to be released. All in all, I had the opportunity at 
one time or another to minister to several thousand men, one 
way or another directly or through tapping on prison walls. 

I will cite only one example of how I was able to use 
almost any pretext to preach the Gospel. 

Stara Zagora was full of younger prisoners. A new wave 
of arrests had filled the prison to overflowing. When I arrived 
there and saw all the new, young faces, I said, ''Thank You, 
Lord, for the new congregation You've sent me/' Of course, 
I wish they had not been arrested, but since they were, I'm 
glad I was put amongst them. 

Unlike most pastors, I changed "churches" not by a 
vote of the congregation, but by order of a prison comman- 
dant. All through the thirteen years, it seemed when I had 
done my best at one prison, the commander obliged me by 
ordering me to another prison where I had a new congrega- 
tion. 

Another difference was my congregation couldn't get 
up and walk out. They were a "captive" audience. I saw 
humor in this situation and I told the men. They laughed with 
me and said, "It's fine, pastor, as long as you don't take a 
collection!" 

Laughter was vital to prisoners and I did my best to keep 
a sense of humor and perspective. The first sign a man was 
descending into madness was when he stopped laughing. 
When this happened all the fellow prisoners, who looked on 
one another as brothers, spent much time trying to lift the 
man back to normalcy. Without the prison humor, we all 
would have gone mad. 

So in Stara Zogara I found a new congregation of young 
men recently arrested. 

I prayed all night, "God, help me reach these men. 
Show me how." Since we were under surveillance, I had to 
find some way to teach them God's Word secretly. 

106 



Then the Lord showed me the answer! I spoke fairly 
good English from my Bible school year in England. We had 
a 90- minute exercise period each day. Why not use that? 

So, I passed word to all prisoners who wanted to learn or 
improve their English to meet me in the corner of the exercise 
yard the next day. I couldn't wait for the hour to come. When 
it did, I found myself surrounded by about 30 prisoners, 
some who spoke a little English. They were very interested in 
improving their English. For several weeks, I taught them 
enough English to understand me clearly. Then I started 
" Phase Two" of my plan. 

I started speaking entirely in English about the Bible and 
God's Word. The prison guards couldn't speak English. So 
they came up to listen in, shrugged and walked off. If they 
had known why I was smiling ! I was able freely to preach and 
teach the Gospel to the young men in English. Their hunger 
to learn better English brought them there each day until the 
Word of God began to take hold. I learned later the prison 
commander asked the guards what I was up to and they 
replied, "Popov's out there teaching English." The com- 
mander shrugged, "If that's how he wants to waste his 
exercise period, it's no concern of mine." 

The Bible classes in the exercise yard continued for 
several weeks. The men drank in God's Word. Not only had 
the men learned English but a great deal about God's Word 
and the Word began bearing fruit. 

A significant change took place in the lives of several of 
the men. Several stopped smoking even though they had 
sworn they never could. 

One of the men who couldn't open his mouth without 
cursing, asked me one day after Bible Class, "Pastor Popov, 
what has happened to me, I don't swear any more!" 

The change in their lives was remarkable and noticed by 
all the other men. 

They began whispering to the other men and the men 
passed the Gospel from one cell to another. Men sat up at 
night in the cell talking about the Bible and God. 

God became the number one topic in the cells late at 
night. A warm spirit of brotherhood and love passed from 
cell to cell. 

107 



* 'Graduates" of my Bible class began conducting Bible 
classes of their own in the cells at night. 

I am not exaggerating when I say that the influence of 
these Bible classes reached into every cell-block at Stara 
Zogara. I myself was surprised. I learned a lesson there: 
God's Word grows and spreads most in a condition of suffer- 
ing and privation. This is what made the spiritual harvest I 
was able to reap so abundant in communist prisons. 

How my heart rejoiced when I saw the influence of 
God's Word on the prisoners. Some, of course, had not 
changed, but many lives were changed and the difference in 
Stara Zogara was real and noticeable. When the lights went 
out at night you could almost hear the buzz of men talking 
about God's Word and what this or that Scripture meant. 

Even those who didn't believe were deeply impressed 
by the change in the lives of several of the men. They could 
argue against the Bible, but they couldn't refute the changed 
lives. 

One day at Stara Zogara I was called before a Secret 
Police official named Tamo. It was the same day that de 
Gaulle came into power in France. A tall, thin young DS man 
was also present in Tanio's office, and soon Tanio left me 
alone with him. 

The young DS man and I talked for about two hours. 
From what he said, I knew that he not only knew all about me 
but about all the pastors and congregations. Perhaps he had 
been a believer, or had relatives who were believers. He 
knew about the life in our churches and was well versed in 
church history. 

He would be very glad to help me, he said; that was why 
he had come. But since he had been sent by the Secret Police, 
I didn't expect anything good to come of it. 

We began talking about religion, although he was wary 
when it came to God. He was cordial and agreeable and we 
became completely taken up with the subject. 

After we had talked about the pastors and congrega- 
tions, he steered the conversation into politics. The most 
important question of the day to the communists was whether 
the French would elect Charles de Gaulle as president. The 

108 



communist newspapers said that his election would be a 
grave mistake. I didn't know anything about it, but I decided 
if the communist papers were against it, I was for it. 

I have no idea why, but the young man asked me, 
"Popov, do you believe de Gaulle will take over?" 

1 *I not only believe that he will do it but I believe he has 
already done it," was my reply. 

He almost struck me. It was as if de Gaulle's coming to 
power depended upon my answer! "Is it God who has re- 
vealed this to you?' ' he asked. I replied that it had nothing to 
do with God. 

"Are you really a spy with connections in France al- 
so?" he asked. 

"No, ' ' I replied, and couldn't help but chuckle. * 'It was 
the articles in your own newspaper you forced us to read that 
revealed it," I said. 

He asked me how long I had been in prison. I said I had 
been in prison for ten years and that I had only a little time left 
to serve. 

"How little?" 

"Four years." 

"You think that's a little?" 

"It is little after I have been in for ten years." 

"Has your sentence been shortened?" 

"No, not at all up to now." 

In fact, my prison term had been shortened by about one 

year. The principle was that if one worked two days, his term 

was shortened by one day. But the young man meant a 

sentence shortened by a pardon. 

Then he looked at me sympathetically and said, tv We 

will try to shorten your term." 

The alarm bells rang instantly. I had long ago learned 
two things: beware when the DS offered help and beware 
when they call you "Comrade." 

He answered that all I had to do was become a member 
of the Cultural Society, give lectures and do what they said. 

I answered that I could never do that. "I have already 
served ten years. I won't compromise my Christian stand. To 
compromise now, with only a short time left — I never will 
doit!" 

109 



He tried to persuade me, but I insisted that I would not 
alter my decision. Around and around we went. Finally, 
exasperated, he expressed his regret that he would not be able 
to help me. When I returned to my cell, I told my comrades 
about the conversation. They then said that at exactly four 
o'clock (when I had been talking to the young DS man) it was 
announced on the state radio that de Gaulle had become head 
of the government in France. 

The effects of the Hungarian Revolution began to wear 
off, and gradually conditions in the prison improved. Again 
the pendulum swung. The number of men per cell was 
reduced to five, and in 1958 it dropped to four. Four men in a 
"one-man" cell was luxury to me! 

By June of 1959, 1 had lost all evidence of sciatica pains 
and volunteered to work in a quarry some miles from the 
prison. It would allow me to meet another group of prisoners. 
I was always trying to circulate among the prisoners leaving 
behind a witness for Christ. 

We went by truck to the quarry, taking clothes and other 
necessities with us, as we were to work and sleep there. The 
whole quarry was surrounded by barbed wire, but the bar- 
racks were immaculate, the food was ample and well cooked 
and there were fruit trees in the yard. 

The work was heavy. Some men bored holes in the rock 
and did the dynamiting, others broke up the huge rocks and 
loaded them on the wagons which took them to a machine 
which ground them into stones of the desired size. 

Because I was so weak, I found quarrying very hard 
work. We used 22-pound sledge hammers to break up the big 
rocks. It was difficult for me just to lift the hammer, much 
less break the rocks. My whole body ached, but I had won- 
derful opportunities to work for Christ. I started up a Bible 
Class at the quarry barracks right under their noses, and they 
never found out about it. Even the ever-present informer 
evidendy didn't report me. I could only conclude that he was 
enjoying the Bible classes too. 

On March 1, 1961, several other prisoners and I were 
shipped by freight car back to infamous Persin prison. We 
arrived on Saturday and had to wait in a cold and dirty 

110 



receiving room until Monday. The food we were given at 

Stara Zagora had been eaten during the trip, so we went 

hungry until Monday. 

Before we were assigned to work, we were interrogated 

once again by the Secret Police. When I said I was an 

evangelical pastor, one of the Secret Police said that the 

Russians had put Yuri Gagarin in orbit between the earth and 

the planets and he had not found God anywhere up there. All 

the other prisoners looked at me, waiting for my reply. I said, 

"The kind of God Gagarin looked for with his eyes does not 

exist." 

The officer shot back, "Wonderful Popov, I'm so glad 

to hear you don't believe in God anymore. Maybe prison has 

done you some good after all." 

I replied, "You're wrong, I do believe there is a God. I 
don't believe in the God you are looking for, but I do believe 
in a God who is Spirit and Truth and who can never be 
discovered by rockets." 

That made him furious and he ordered me out. As I left I 
saw the other prisoners smiling quietly. 

Along with a group of men, I was ordered to Barracks 
Number Two on Persin. I hardly recognized the island. The 
whole island was covered with newly planted trees; good 
roads had been built on the embankments, and there was a 
handsome new four story administration building. We pas- 
sed the first barracks area. Instead of our old huts there were 
fine-looking quarters for the prisoners on the high embank- 
ments. 

But I discovered it was reserved for the criminal prison- 
ers. Religious or political prisoners had no such luck. 

At Barracks Number Two I found the old familiar build- 
ings, but the people were new. There were also modem 
three-story buildings where the soldiers lived. Evidently they 
planned to use Persin as a prison for a long time to come. The 
work was quite varied and very hard, but because they 
needed our labor they fed us one good meal a day . I met some 
of my old friends back at Persin and they said, * ' Pastor, we're 
so glad to see you again. We're sorry you're still in prison, 
but if you have to be in prison we're glad you're back with 
us!" ' 



111 



Over the years I had left Bible classes in every prison, 
and several in Stara Zagora. But by now I had been impris- 
oned for nearly 13 years and my heart ached to be back with 
my family. Now I felt that my prison work was coming to a 
close. With the time reduced by hard labor from 15 years to 
13 years and two months, my time was almost up. To give 
you an idea of how long 13 years are, when I was kidnapped 
from my home, my daughter, Rhoda, was a little girl of 9. 
Now she was a married woman and had a son of her own. 

My life had a huge hole cut out of it. I could have been 
released many times if I had agreed to be a puppet pastor, but 
I could not. Many times I was offered the chance of freedom 
by the DS if I would " conform" and help in the destruction 
of Christianity in Bulgaria. There was even talk that I would 
be made the head of a religious denomination with a fine 
office and a good salary. I would have had to spy on the 
members, the pastors, and they would spy on me. At one 
time I had been battered and starved senseless where I was a 
human tape recorder in the hands of the DS, but that only 
increased my resolve that I would die before I would ever 
willingly yield or compromise. 

The Fruits of Imprisonment 

I came to the end of my 13-year imprisonment with my 
faith intact and stronger than ever; with my self-respect firm, 
for I had never taken the easy way. And I had the great, great 
joy of knowing that in every prison and every cell block I had 
been in, I had left behind men who now knew Christ because 
I was there. I knew that where I had been, Bible classes were 
being conducted, and the fruit of my ministry remained. On 
countless cell walls, the Scriptures I had scratched in would 
be there to bring hope and comfort to the prisoners who 
followed me. 

I knew that men I had never laid eyes on were serving 
Christ because I had the opportunity of * 'tapping" the Gospel 
to them. I don't label myself a hero or martyr, but as I neared 
my release and looked back I could honestly and truthfully 
say that it was worth those 13 years of torture, beatings, 

112 



starvation, suffering and separation from loved ones to be a 
"pastor" to the thousands of communist prisoners my path 
had crossed. 

The prisoners were as happy for my release as I was. On 
the evening of September 24, 1 waited during roll-call to be 
told to pack my belongings, but it didn't happen. The cell 
door was locked behind me. After half an hour, the key 
turned in the lock and the guard came in. 

"Haralan Popov," he said, "pack up your things. To- 
morrow you are free/' 

Everyone in the cell jumped up and cheered. I didn't 
have much to pack. My prison clothes I divided among the 
poorer prisoners. I had only my wearing apparel. That night I 
didn't sleep a wink; I just waited for the break of day. 

When the door opened next morning I said good-by to 
my friends. Several I had led to Christ. They gathered around 
me and one of them said, "Pastor, we will never forget you. 
Thank you for what you gave to us in prison. Because of you, 
we have found God here. " I could hardly restrain my tears. 

The guard took me to the prison gate and soon a wagon 
drawn by two horses came and drove me to freedom. It was 8 
a.m. when we arrived at Headquarters. A thorough search 
was made of my clothing and my suitcase, then I was issued 
papers that would serve as my identification card until I had 
time to get a regular one. I went out into the yard. No one was 
about except the guard at the gate. I went to him to ask what I 
should do next. I asked, "May I go out?" 

"Yes, you are cleared. You may go," he said, laugh- 
ing. 

I walked past him a dream, suitcase in hand. Outside the 

gate not a soul was in sight. After 13 years, a span of time in 
which my baby girl had become a wife and mother, I was out 
from behind prison bars. I wasn't really free, for I was still an 
ex-prisoner and unlicensed evangelical pastor in a com- 
munist land, but at least, the walls of the prison were behind 

me 

" I looked at them from the outside and thought of the 

lonely nights of torture, the beatings I had suffered. I thought 

of the starvation and the nine months of solitary confinement 

in the airless pit. 

113 



I remembered the flowing Niagara of horrors and the 
unbroken river of suffering. But I also remembered the men 
who had found God. 

As I stood looking at the prison walls behind me, I 
thought, Yes, to leave behind men who know and serve 
Christ, it was worth it all. And it truly was. I can honestly say 
before God it was worth it all. 

Little did I realize I was ending a period as a pastor to 
men in communist prisons and was soon to become a pastor 
to those whose churches had been closed. 

I took a firm grip on my suitcase and started walking 
down the main village street. When I arrived at the station it 
was 9 a.m. and the train had left at 8. The next train didn't 
leave until evening. 

I couldn't think of staying in Belene so close to the 
prison all day, so I set out on foot for a station further down 
the railway line. 

I arrived there, tired and dusty just before noon after a 
three hour walk, and found a train leaving within 30 minutes 
which passed through my home village. It was a journey that 
would take only a day, but one which but for the hand of God 
over 13 years, I would never have lived to make. 

It was, for me, no less a miracle-journey than that of the 
Children of Israel. 

As I sat on the train, slowly chugging its way across the 
green, flat plains of our country, I looked out the window and 
prayed, God help me to serve You as faithfully in freedom as 
I tried to do in prison. Don't let the easier circumstances 
lessen my dedication. 

I would rather be truly faithful in prison than let the 
easier life outside weaken my faith. I need not have had any 
fear. Things were almost as bad outside. 

I arrived at the station in my home town of Krasno 
Gradiste around 8 p.m. and walked half a mile down the 
dusty road of the village to a small, thatched-roof house on 
the edge of town where my uncle and aunt lived. 

I knocked on the door. It opened and my aunt took one 
look at me and cried out, "Haralan, is it really you?" This 
wasn't just an exclamation of surprise. It was a serious 

114 



question, for prison had brought such visible changes in me I 
often was not recognized by old friends. 

I had gone into prison a young pastor in the prime of life, 
I came out broken in health, bowed over and a mere shadow 

of the man I once was. 

My prison years had leaped the gap from relative youth 
to being a man now physically elderly. 

"It is you!" My aunt exclaimed as my uncle came 
hurrying from the other room to see what the commotion was 
all about. He hugged me saying, "Haralan, never in all our 
lives did we expect to see you again. ' ' He stood back looking 
me over, "What has happened to you?" 

Then it dawned on me that I must have looked really 
awful! I had long ago become used to my "new appear- 
ance," but my uncle still thought of me as I appeared four- 
teen years ago when he last saw me. He couldn't disguise the 
dismay on his face, though he tried. 

Poor uncle! He tried so hard to lift my spirits, but I 
would steal a glance at him and catch him looking at me with 
sad eyes. The next thing I knew, I was saying, "Uncle, don't 
worry about me. The worst is over. God has been with me 
and in many ways it's been worthwhile." 

My aunt looked scoldingly at my uncle and said, "Now 
look at you! You were going to encourage Haralan and it's 
ended up with you down in the dumps and him having to 
encourage you!" I couldn't help but laugh. 

Two days later there was a knock at the door and there 
stood Ladin, my younger brother! He grabbed me and 
hugged me. Ladin is big and strong, much stronger than he 
looks, and I was like a matchstick. "Ladin," I said, "take it 
easy or you'll finish what the prison started!" 

"Haralan," he said, with tears of joy brimming in his 
eyes, "it's so good to see you! So many times I thought you'd 
never make it. " Ladin had good reason for his doubts. After 
his own five years of imprisonment he brought food to me in 
prison whenever it was permitted and saw me there. Every 
time the authorities permitted food to be brought, Ladin was 
right there. "Good old Ladin," I said, "you stuck by me all 
the way. Next to the Lord's faithfulness, you helped me 
make it." 

115 



Around dusk, Ladin and I went for a walk down the 
small tree-lined main street of the village. It gave us a chance 
to talk. We stopped in an empty park in the middle of the 
village and sat on the single, unpainted park bench. Ladin 
told me how, after his five years' imprisonment, he was now 
barred from his pulpit for life. He explained how he had been 
ministering as an "underground pastor" and of the many 
times he had been arrested and beaten for his work since his 
release from prison. I had led Ladin to Christ myself when he 
was on the verge of committing suicide many years before. 
Now, hearing of his own torture and present ordeal I asked, 
"Ladin, in all those years in prison, did you ever resent me 
for leading you to the Lord since that led to your torture?" 

"No/' he replied, "never. Not for one moment!" And 
from the firm tone of his voice I knew he really meant it. 

From what Ladin told me as we sat there, it appeared 
that in my 13 years absence, the entire country had become 
one vast "prison"; that I had just passed from a smaller 
prison into a larger prison. 

"Haralan," Ladin said quietly, "things are very, very 
bad for all the believers. A great change has taken place in 
Bulgaria. Many country churches have been closed and the 
city churches are controlled by the communists, with their 
own men in the pulpits and the Secret Police in every meet- 
ing. But there is a large body of believers who haven't bowed 
their knee to Baal yet and we'll never give in. We're meeting 
in barns and homes and any place else we can meet." 

"Ladin," I replied, "it sounds just like what I did in 
prison these 13 years. It looks like I'll be able to put that 
experience to good use now." 

We sat silently on the park bendi, each lost in his own 
thoughts, watching the squirrels playing on the ground while 
the evening wind grew chilly. We said little as we made our 
way back to our uncle's house, each deep in his own 
thoughts. 

As we walked along, the evening wind had now become 
quite cold. A storm was building up in the North and it 
seemed an ominous portent of things to come. 

116 



* * * 



But God's hand was also upon us. He had been with me 
through conditions which stagger the imagination and He 
would still be with me. 

The first "miracle" after my release was when I was 
given a "Resident's Permit" for Sofia, our capital city, and 
received police permission to go there to get my identifica- 
tion card. 

I don't know how I got it. To have a "Resident's 
Permit" to live in Sofia today means what Roman citizenship 
meant to Paul. Sofia was the heart of everything and many 
Bulgarians would have given much money to get such a 
permit but couldn't. For in Bulgaria, Russia and other com- 
munist lands, the communists try to control every movement 
of the people. 

You must have an "Internal Passport" even to move 
about the country. You don't just pick where you want to 
live. You live where the communists say and you most when 
they say. 

So never in a million years could I have arranged a 
resident's permit for Sofia. But God arranged it, using the 
communist officials to do it. He still had a plan for my life. 

I said, "Thank You, Lord, I know You've got work for 
me to do in Sofia," and went on my way there hoping to find 
a small place to live. 

ButI was both an "ex-prisoner" and an "unregistered" 
evangelical pastor. Being just one of those things was enough 
to put the "mark of Cain" on a man for life. And I was both! 
As soon as the housing authorities saw from my papers what I 
was, I was sent away. 

I looked everywhere on my own but couldn't find a 
place to live — not even a small room, much less an apart- 
ment. Some of my former church members risked trouble by 
inviting me to live with them for a while. But not wanting to 
cause them danger, I kept looking. I prayed, "God, even the 
sparrows have a nest. I know You have a place for me 
somewhere." 

And He did. I soon found a deserted, empty half-attic 
which was used to store trunks and suitcases. It was tiny, 

117 



dusty and filled with cobwebs. The rain leaked right through 
the roof. It had no heating or water and was so tiny I had room 
only for a small bed, a tiny desk and a chair. The Christians 
who saw it were surprised that I was able to live in such a little 
nook, but I was happy with it. I told one of my former church 
members, "In prison I lived for years in a space as small as 
this with 7 or 8 others." 

I could tell from his doubtful expression, he was having 
a hard time believing me. It was so tiny. 

When it rained, the rain dripped through holes in the 
roof and because my small bed itself covered most of the tiny 
room, the water dripped mostly on the bed. A single window 
pane was broken out making it very cold. But when I taped it 
with paper, the light was cut off, so I decided I would rather 
be cold than be in darkness, so I left it broken out and spent 
the winter days huddled up with blankets around me. But the 
room was a gift from God and I thanked Him for it. 

The first night that I spent in my cold attic room was 
stormy, and rain dripped all over my bed. I lay huddled in the 
blankets given me by Christians, thinking of Ruth, Rhoda 
and Paul in Sweden and what they were doing that night. 
Would I ever see them again, I wondered. At last I drifted off 
into a fitful, troubled sleep. 



Amazing Old "Babba" Maria 

There was only one consolation to my attic "home." 
That was "Babba" Maria. "Babba" is our affectionate 
Bulgarian name for "Grandma" and "Babba" Maria was a 
very wrinkled, but vital, energetic 72-year-old Christian lady 
who lived on a lower floor. She became like a * 'mother hen' ' 
to me. 

Babba Maria was a remarkable old lady and one of the 
most unforgettable people I've ever met. She was an irre- 
pressible "take charge" woman who seemed to really be- 
lieve that her heavenly Father owned the cattle on a thousand 
hills. 

She had been a Christian worker since her youth and had 

118 



an irrepressible, contagious, overflowing faith in God that 
uplifted everyone around her. What a spiritual giant and 
pillar of strength Babba Maria was! Nothing ever seemed to 
get her down. When things looked blackest, you could count 
on old Babba Maria to grin and say, "Now, who's on the 
Throne? God, or the devil?** And everyone's spirits would 
pick up. She was a woman who walked closely with the Lord 
and who had an unconquerable faith. No one who knew her 
will ever forget her, especially the communists who once or 
twice tried to stop one of her prayer meetings. 

"Now look here, young man," she sternly lectured a 
young policeman one day, "God told me to pray. Now who 
should I obey, you or God?" The young policeman just 
stammered something and walked off. She was never 
bothered again. 

"Haralan," she said one day, "you get right down out 
of that attic . We 're going to start a prayer meeting and you 're 
going to lead it!" 

No one ever dared say "no" to Babba Maria, so I 
started prayer meetings and Bible classes in her small apart- 
ment. I quoted Scriptures from the 47 chapters I had 
memorized in prison and ministered the Word of God to them 
and in many ways it was similar to my secret ministry in 
prison. When I had finished Babba Maria said, "ThankGod! 
We don't have any Bibles, but God has given us a 'Bible' 
living up in that attic." 

From that night on, we met, prayed and I quoted the 
Scriptures. It was blissful, sweet fellowship. There is noth- 
ing sweeter than the fellowship of true believers with one 
another, when surrounded by difficulty and suffering. I 
realize now the fellowship Paul missed so much when he 
wrote to the believers from his prison in Rome. 

Soon after the meetings started I received a great gift 
from God. The news came that Ruth had been able to join a 
Swedish tourist group coming to Bulgaria and would be on 
her way to see me soon ! How my heart jumped at that news ! I 
had seen Ruth the last time eleven years ago in prison. Babba 
Maria was as happy as I was and said, "See, Haralan! I told 
you everything was possible with God." 

119 



As the day of Ruth's arrival neared, I was as happy as a 
child. I couldn't sleep at night and lay in my attic bed, the rain 
dripping down from the leaky roof, and thought about the last 
time I had seen Ruth eleven years ago. In those eleven years I 
had never allowed myself the luxury of thinking of seeing her 
or the children again. Such hopes had driven strong men 
mad. But as Babba Maria kept saying, "God is still on the 

Throne." 

The great day finally came. Five hours before Ruth's 
plane was due, I was at the airport anxiously waiting. The 
plane was an hour and 14 minutes late and that was the 
longest hour and 14 minutes I've ever spent. It seemed like 
114 years! Finally the flight arrived and I met Ruth just 
outside the customs hall. "Ruth," I shouted, "over here." 

"Haralan," she called back, Soon we were in each 
other's arms. Eleven long years of no hope of ever seeing her 
again and here she was! "Haralan!" she gasped, and then 
choked back the words. I guess I still looked a sight. 

We returned to Babba Maria's and she fixed tea forus as 
Ruth told me of Paul and Rhoda and her husband. My heart 
was so big I couldn't contain it as I heard of Paul's good 
grades in school and how little Rhoda was now grown up and 
had married a fine Christian doctor. Ruth showed me the 
latest pictures of the children and I laughed and cried at 
almost the same time. 

"Haralan," Ruth said "I'm with the tourist group now. 
It's the only way I could get into the country and I've got to 
go back with them soon, but as soon as Paul graduates, gets a 
job and is able to care for himself I'm coming back here to be 
with you." 

"Ruth, this is no life for you," I replied. "I don't know 
what the future holds for me, but I don't want to see you 
living under these conditions. It's better you stay in Sweden. 
My future is too uncertain." 

"Haralan, you're my husband," she tearfully replied, 
"and I want to be with you wherever you are. I don't care 
what it's like or how the conditions are." 

The day of Ruth's return to Sweden came all too soon 
and I took her on the sad journey to the airport. We had a 

120 



tearful farewell, never knowing if we would see each other 
again. She flew off to Sweden and I returned to my attic room 
alone, in deep sadness with my heart breaking. 

"God, " I prayed as I fell on the bed, "give me strength. 
All my life, I have tried only to do Your will. You didn't fail 
me in prison. Give me strength now." 

In the depth of despair as I cried out from my heart, I felt 
the presence of God fill my room as I had in the prison cells 
throughout 13 years. I prayed, "Lord, my life is here with 
my people/' I then fell into a deep sleep. 



Church Spies Spying on Spies 

With the excitement of Ruth's visit over I plunged into 
the secret prayer meetings and Bible study groups in earnest. 
Gradually the enormity of the tragedy that had overwhelmed 
our churches in my 13 years absence hit me full force. 
Everything that Ladin told me was true — and more. 

My heart broke as I saw what had happened. Churches 
that had had 200 or 300 members were now down to 15 or 16! 
Where once the church had four, five or more meetings a 
week, now there was only one. Pastors who refused to 
"cooperate" in the strangulation of the church from within 
were removed and "cooperative" pastors were put in their 
places. 

Sunday schools were forbidden and DS spies were in 
every meeting. They wanted to know: who was there, what 
was said, who prayed too fervently, was there any attempt to 
"proselyte" new converts? 

They needn't have worried because, by and large, the 
"new pastors" they had installed were over-zealous in en- 
forcing the religious laws. 

A police apparatus of total control had reached its 
octopus-like tentacles around the churches in a deadly em- 
brace. 

To make sure of total control of all that was said and 
done in the churches, the DS had spies in every church 
meeting to spy on their own approved "new pastors." Spies 

121 



were spying on the spies! Still, many true Christians re- 
mained in such churches to keep some sort of witness alive. 
Among these Christians, there was a joke going around that 
the DS spies were the most faithful church members of all. 
They never missed a meeting! 

The DS spy in each church tried to keep his identity 
secret, but the true believers soon found out. The believers 
asked themselves two questions: who was at almost every 
meeting? and who seemed to listen most attentively to every 
empty, dead word spoken by the communist-installed new 
pastors? Whoever fitted that description best usually turned 
out to be the DS spy! 

But the communists' "wearing down" tactics were 
beginning to tell. The technique used was simple. As soon as 
the "pastor" could reduce the number of believers in the 
church, the authorities stepped in and declared there was 
"not enough interest" and ordered the church closed and the 
building put to "more profitable use." The churches in the 
countryside, towns and villages were especially hard hit, 
with many closed. Using this clever DS tactic, it never 
looked like outside persecution. The authorities could always 
boast "the church was closed for lack of interest." 

In each major city, one or two churches were left open 
but were also "pastored" by men approved by the DS. 
Foreigners were brought there and shown "freedom of re- 
ligion" at work. Still a faithful "remnant" remained in even 
the official churches, determined to maintain their witness 
and keep the church doors open, so the authorities couldn't 
say there was "no interest." 

Then a new blow hit the believers remaining in the 
churches. The young men, one by one, began getting sum- 
monses to report to the local DS headquarters. There they 
would be asked, "Why haven't you taken the hint and left the 
church? There's no place for you there. We want you out and 
if you don't take the hint, we'll find a way to make ourselves 
better understood . ' ' 

Most of the young men refused to give up. One by one, 
they were ordered back to the DS office at night where they 
were beaten in such a way that no visible marks would show. 

122 



The beatings lasted until 5 or 6 a.m., then the men were sent 
home saying, "If you tell one person, even your wife, what 
has happened it will mean your life. Be back here at 10 again 
tonight!" 

Many of our finest young Christians had to leave their 
families each night after dinner to report for the nightly 
beatings. 

They suffered in silence for Christ, telling no one. 

These secret, night-time beatings of anyone who 
seemed to be "zealous" in their faith in Christ were a regular 
night-time ordeal for many of our people — just as they are 
today in Russia, Bulgaria and many other communist lands. 

44 Officially" it doesn't happen but thousands of men 
today are silently carrying this burden for Christ. 



Secret Churches 



Faced with the closed or communist-controlled 
churches, we followed the pattern of the Early Church in 
Rome. 

In the larger cities the Christians began forming groups 
meeting and worshiping in believers' homes scattered around 
the city, always changing the meeting place to avoid dis- 
covery. 

Such meetings are dangerous because in all communist 
lands, it's illegal to have any religious service outside the 
four walls of a "registered" church. The secret churches 
desperately needed Bible teaching and the same full range of 
pastoral help as any "normal" church. So I dedicated my 
years to the Secret Church and became very active going to 
other believers' houses throughout Sofia conducting meet- 
ings, prayer sessions and Bible classes. My schedule was full 
of such meetings. 

A meeting would be called in a Christian's home for 
around midnight. The two favorite hours were midnight and 
around 6 p.m. For midnight meetings people started "drift- 
ing" in by twos and threes around 8 p.m., a full four hours 

123 



before the meeting was due to begin. Never more than 3 or 4 
came at a time so as not to arouse attention. A few minutes 
after the arrival of the first two or three, two or three more 
would "drop in." A few more minutes would pass and the 
next two or three would come. In this way a sizable group 
could gather without attracting attention. I was usually the 
last to arrive as I often hurried from one group to another and 
couldn't afford the long waiting period before the meeting 
began. By midnight, on arrival at the believer's house I 
almost always found the streets deserted and the neighbor- 
hood in absolute stillness. All shutters were closed and lock- 
ed. You wouldn't think a person was around, but entering I 
often found twenty-five to thirty people packed and jammed 
inside waiting for the meeting to start. 

The men usually stood along the walls. The women sat 
on beds or makeshift chairs, and the younger people squatted 
on the floor. Sometimes, we took the risk of singing a hymn 
(we sang very softly to keep from being overheard). Tears 
would flow as we met and sang the beautiful songs of the 
Church just as the believers of the Early Church. 

"My dear brothers and sisters in Christ," I would 
begin. "We meet here to worship our Lord and hear His 
Word. He is here with us this night." On and on I would 
continue. It was dangerous to meet, so when we did meet, the 
meetings lasted up to 3 or 4 hours, ending in prayer for one 
another and all the other fellow-Christians over our land and 
in Russia meeting tonight as we were. 

With the meeting finally over, we had to leave the same 
way we came, by two and threes. Again, I would be the first 
to leave due to my heavy schedule. It took as long to disperse 
as it did to gather. After well-attended meetings Christians 
would still be leaving at 6 or 7 o'clock in the morning as 
people were filling the street to go to work. 

Such small churches were springing up all over the 
country as the persecution drove the believers to this depth 
of sincerity and dedication, willing to risk their homes, their 
jobs and even their freedom to assemble and worship to- 
gether. 

124 



"Birthday Evangelism" 

We always improvised and found new ways to meet, 
teach the Word of God and fellowship together. I soon 
discovered that one of the best times to have meetings was on 
birthdays because it was common and safe for groups to get 
together on birthdays. There was no danger of discovery and 
no need to gather secretly or sing in hushed voices. After all, 
it was only a "birthday party." Birthdays soon became one 
of the favorite occasions for the home churches to meet and 
worship together. 

Birthdays gave such a wonderful opportunity that many 
Christian families with three or four members in the family 
began having fifteen or twenty "birthdays' a year 1 1 myself 
had so many "birthdays' * that if I were as many years old as I 
had birthdays, I'd be almost Methuselah's age! We had the 
"oldest" Christians in the world in the secret churches. 

Weddings and funerals also provided wonderful oppor- 
tunities for us to openly preach the Gospel. One day the 
wedding ceremony, at which I could not officiate since I was 
an "unregistered' ' pastor, took about ten minutes. Afterward 
someone said, "All right, Pastor Popov, come on up and 
wish the bride and groom happiness." I went up to the front 
of the room and "wished them happiness' ' for three hours ! I 
preached, quoted from God's Word and taught the Scriptures 
just as if I were back in my pulpit before my arrest. 

What wonderful times these weddings were! 

After one wedding I had preached an unusually long 
time, and everyone sat listening to every word. Afterward 
one of the men came up and said, "Haralan, I'll bet you're 
always praying someone will hurry up and get married just so 
you can have a meeting." His daughter, about 16, was 
standing beside him. I told her, "Now, Larissa, I'm counting 
on your wedding next year. Don't let me down." She 
blushed as her father laughed. 

In countless ways we improvised and found new ways 
of meeting, worshiping and spreading the Gospel secretly. 
The Lord was wonderfully with me many times. Once as I 
taught a group of believers at midnight in a home, we heard 

125 



footsteps coming down the sidewalk and stopping just out- 
side the door. One of the men looked through the shutters and 
whispered, "It's a policeman.' * We began to pray fervently 
in our hearts. Soon we could hear him walking away. 

Of course, sometimes the secret police managed to 
discover a secret meeting and the leader was arrested, the 
names of those attending were taken down and the men 
summoned to the police station headquarters for interroga- 
tion and sometimes for all night "instruction sessions" of 
beatings in the DS basement. 

But a beautiful thing began to happen in the Secret 
Church. As the fires of persecution grew, they burned away 
the chaff and stubble and left only the golden wheat. The 
suffering purified the Church and united the believers in a 
wonderful spirit of brotherly love such as must have existed 
in the Early Church. Petty differences were put aside. 
Brethren loved and cared for one another and carried one 
another's burdens. There were no nominal or "lukewarm" 
believers. It made no sense to be a halfhearted Christian 
when the price for faith was so great. There came a great 
spiritual depth and richness in Christ I have never seen in the 
times before when we were free. 

It was as if the spirit of the Early Church had descended 
in all its beauty, fullness and love upon the believers of the 
Secret Church. Every man, woman and youth was forced to 
4 * count the cost" and decide if serving Christ was worth the 
suffering. And to the communists' great regret, this was the 
healthiest thing they could have done for the Church, for the 
insincere gave up but the true Christians became aware of 
what Christ meant to them and became more dedicated than 
ever before. 

When believers were discovered meeting secretly, 
some were sent off in exile to remote parts of our country. On 
arrival they began to spread the Word of God there as they 
had back home, just as the disciples of the Early Church, 
driven by persecution, spread the Word of God to the far 
corners of the then known world. 

Christian history has come "full circle" in the Suffering 
Church in communist lands today. 

126 



The Bible Scavenger 

Working now in this Church, I began to face the 
tragedies of Christians without the Word of God, 

No one can begin to describe in words the empty void in 
the heart of a Christian denied God's Word. Nothing could be 
more "unnatural." It is like a fish without water, or a bird 
without air. Christians are creatures of Gods Word and must 
have that Word to grow spiritually. 

One day on the street, I met an old man in very dirty 
clothes, who approached me saying, "Pastor, you don't 
know me, but I know you and I have something here I want to 
show you." I was a little suspicious of him, thinking he 
might be with the DS. But then I decided none of the proud 
men in the Secret Police would have appeared this dirty, so 
he must be for real. He pulled open his tattered coat and 
showed me a ragged, partly burned book in terrible condi- 
tion. It was so soiled and dirty, I couldn't even tell at first 
what kind of book it was. He then flipped open the pages and 
I saw that it was a Bible! It was partly burned and had sections 
missing — but it was a Bible! 

Taking him by the arm and leading him off to the side so 
we wouldn't be overheard, I asked, "Where did you get 
this?" 

"At the Sofia trash dump," he replied. 

"At the trash dump!" I exclaimed. 

"How . . . ?" But before I could finish the question he 
interrupted, "I dig around trash dumps for anything of value 
and sell it. That's how I make my living. One day I was 
poking under a pile of rubbish and I saw an old partly-burned 
book. I picked it up and found it was a half-burned Bible. It 
dawned on me that this must be one of the Bibles they are 
taking away from the people and destroying. I decided I must 
have found where they were dumping the Bibles and I figured 
if that's where they burned and destroyed them, that's where 
I would go to get them back." 

He went on, "Since then, I've been going out there 
because they know me there. But now, I get only enough 
other junk to be a * cover' for my real purpose of getting 

127 



Bibles. I'm only after the Bibles from now on and getting 
them back in circulation. I figure if the authorities don't want 
them around, they must be good." 

I couldn't help but laugh inside. This kind of humor was 
so typical of people living under communism. "And be- 
sides," he went on, "I can make a living stealing these 
Bibles back from the ones who stole them in the first place. 

"Here, Pastor," he whispered, handing me the Bible. 
"I want you to have this for your work." I started to thank 
him as he turned to walk away. 

"Where are you going?" I asked. "I want to thank you 
some way." 

"No," he replied, "I've got to be going." 

I knew where he was going. I never saw him again, but 
from time to time, I saw partly burned or very soiled parts of 
Bibles in the underground meetings and I knew the old 
"Bible scavenger" was still at work. 

How just! The communists stole the Bibles from the 
people. He stole them from the communists and got the 
Bibles back into circulation! 

I preached and taught the Word of God in the many 
small home churches which were now meeting regularly 
around Sofia. The Bible meant so much to me, because I only 
knew 47 chapters by heart and missed the others. 

After a late night meeting with an underground group of 
believers, a young girl about sixteen years old came up to me. 
I recognized her as a new Christian who had just recently 
joined this Secret Church. 

"Pastor Popov," she said, looking at the partly burned 
Bible the old man had given me, "could I borrow your Bible 
until tomorrow morning?" 

"Well, yes certainly," I replied. 

She took the Bible and, sure enough, the next morning 
she brought it back to me at Babba Maria's. She thanked me 
and just before leaving turned and asked, "Pastor, could I 
borrow it again after the meeting tonight?' ' 

"Of course," I said, curious about why she wanted it 
overnight. The next morning, she again returned it promptly, 
thanked me and asked, "Where will you be speaking to- 
night?" 

128 



I told her and she replied, ' 'If I come there tonight, can I 
borrow it again and return it early tomorrow morning?' * 

I was dying of curiosity and couldn't stand it any longer. 
" Yes, of course you can, but why? What are you doing with 
it? Are you sitting up all night reading it?' ' 

"No, Pastor," she replied, "if I take it home and just 
read it, it will be gone tomorrow morning. I take it home and 
copy as many verses as I can by hand from midnight to dawn . 
If I have a good night, I can get several whole chapters 
done!" she said excitedly. 

"One day," she said beaming with pride, "if I keep it 
up, I'll have a Bible of my own! Won't that be wonderful, 
Pastor?" 

I was deeply touched, and told her, "You can have it 
tonight and every night and during the day too if you want 
until you get your Bible done." She clasped her hands 
together, almost jumping for excitement, "Oh, Pastor, thank 
you!" 

After she left, my heart was broken. Here was a little 
girl so excited over the prospects of working countless 
nights, all night long, copying the Scriptures so one day she 
would have her own Bible. How hungry and desperate my 
people were for God's Word! This was happening all over 
Bulgaria. And what about those who didn't have even a 
partly-burned Bible to copy? It is a great tragedy of our times. 



Secret "Bible Factory" 

One day I heard about a clandestine "Bible factory" set 
up in the back room of a Christian's home just outside Sofia, 
and made my way out there. Passing through a small rear 
door so low I had to stoop down, I entered a well-lit room, 
with heavy drapes carefully placed over the windows. Inside 
I found a long table and seven people sitting around it hard at 
work. Most were young people, with an elderly man busily 
copying away down at the end of the table. They didn't even 
look up as I was led into the room. I had walked into an 
underground "Bible factory. ' ' 

129 



It was an incredible sight which so well shows the plight 
of Christians in communist lands without Scriptures. 

They had somehow secured a Bible and carefully cut it 
apart in books. Each "work station'* at the table was as- 
signed to copy that one book over and over again, by slow, 
painstaking, hand-lettering. At other "work stations," 
others were busy with other books such as John, Luke, and 
Acts. When one group was tired, they were relieved by 
others in relays so the work wouldn't stop. The hand copying 
continued 12 hours a day. When a book of the Bible was 
finished, it was put together with the other books, and 
stitched into a complete Bible. 

When the completed, hand-lettered Bible was carefully 
bound in leather, it was speeded on its way to a group of 
Christians in a Suffering Church somewhere in Bulgaria. 
This "Bible factory" produced 25 hand- written Bibles a 
year — always at great risk and incredibly long hours of 
labor. 

Though I never saw them, I heard of other such "Bible 
factories" as our fellow Christians of the Persecuted Church 
desperately worked to produce Scriptures for the Bible- 
starved people. 

One evening I had finished a meeting of an underground 
Bible class in a believer's home when one of the Christians 
handed me a piece of cardboard with typed pages inside, 
saying, "Look at this, Pastor." I examined it and it was a 
gospel book entitled Calvary's Road by Roy Hession. But it 
was a completely typewritten book, with the typed pages 
bound in by needle and thread between cardboard covers. 
I asked, "Where did you get this? This is wonderful!" 
He explained, "There's a crippled man who speaks 
English living on the other side of town. He has an ancient, 
broken-down typewriter. He gets these Bible-teaching books 
and since he's crippled, he spends all his time translating and 
typing them out a few carbon copies at a time. As soon as he's 
finished, he starts typing the whole book all over again. He 
makes 4 to 5 carbon copies each time he retypes it all. His 
typed books are being circulated from hand to hand all over 
Bulgaria." 

130 



I secured his address and went over to his tiny apart- 
ment. As I entered the first thing I saw were stacks of paper 
piled high all over his apartment. I couldn't believe it. To buy 
such a quantity of paper would immediately attract the atten- 
tion of the Secret Police who would start asking questions. 
He saw the astonishment on my face and laughed, answering 
my question even before I could ask it, "Pastor, where 
there's a will, there's a way. I have Christians all over Sofia 
going out for me, each one buying a little paper here and a 
little there in small quantities. They all bring it here and I use 
it to type out these books I've translated." 

On and on he went, explaining how he worked as he 
showed me one book after another in the process of transla- 
tion. Then he showed me a stack of finished books ready to 
go. His little apartment was a veritable underground Chris- 
tian bookstore right here in the capital of communist Bul- 
garia! 

Though he couldn't get out of the apartment, the books 
and literature he produced on his old typewriter in this tiny 
crowded apartment in Sofia were bringing countless bless- 
ings to hundreds and possibly thousands all across Bulgaria. 

Such heroic efforts of the Secret Church touched me 
deeply. I saw sacrifice beyond measure but even such heroic 
sacrifice and efforts as these couldn't begin to meet the need 
of our people for Bibles, hymn books, gospels and literature 
for our youth. All these heroic efforts produced only a mere 
trickle of what was needed. 

The * 'Bible factories" worked day and night, but at 
most produced only 25 to 30 Bibles a year. 

Young Christians, such as the young girl, borrowed any 
Bible available and desperately copied them all night long 
but this was not enough. One old typewriter in the hands of a 
crippled man produced some books but it was only a drop in 
the bucket compared to the need. 

Again and again, young Christians approached me say- 
ing, "Pastor, we need a Bible. Isn't there one somewhere for 
us?" 

My heart broke seeing the need of the suffering 
churches. All across the land, tragedy was stalking the 

131 



Church. My heart wept as I saw young Christians begging for 
the use of a Bible for just a few hours. 

And what about the coming generation? We couldn't 
possibly teach them God's Word without God's Word. We 
saw youth carrying beautiful, full color books on 
atheism — and we had nothing to give them. I lay in my 
attic room praying, deeply distressed. Something had to be 
done. We could never meet the need among ourselves by 
hand-copying Bibles. It was clear someone had to get help 
from the outside. 

It became more and more apparent that we had to have 
help from our fellow-Christians outside the Iron Curtain. 
Someone had to get out to the Free World and awaken our 
fellow-Christians to the need and somehow get Bibles in. 
Someone had to speak for the Persecuted Churches which 
had no voice. Several of the people urged that I must be the 
one. "After all," they pointed out, "you have a family in 
Sweden and have the best apparent 'reason' for asking to be 
permitted to leave Bulgaria. ' ' And, of course, I did long to be 
united with my family. 



My Urgent Mission 

It was heartbreaking to think about leaving my country 
and the believers there, many of whom I had personally led to 
the Lord and to whom I had been both spiritual father and 
pastor. 

In my mind I had prepared myself to stay with my 
people. But many of them kept urging me to go, recognizing 
that only by making our needs known could we ever get the 
help we needed. Outwardly, they stressed, it would appear to 
the authorities that I wanted only to join my family which was 
perfectly natural. Secretly, my real and most important mis- 
sion would be to get help for the Persecuted Church — a 
mission far more important than family desires. 

Instead of having Ruth return here as planned, I now 
knew by all means I must get out to the Free World. Babba 
Maria and Christians across Bulgaria began to pray that God 

132 



would open the doors and I would be able to undertake this 
mission. Prayer meetings were held all over Bulgaria. I got 
word to Rum asking her to write letters to the Swedish 
government to put pressure on the Bulgarian authorities, 
asking approval for me to come there. I applied for permis- 
sion to leave and was immediately turned down. Still the- 
Christians prayed. 

One day I received a letter from the Minister of Internal 
Affairs ordering me to report to their office. Going out the 
door Babba Maria stopped me and said, "Brother Haralan, 
it's your passport. You're going to get permission to go!" 

When I arrived at the office, I was brusquely ordered 
into the office of the Chief Deputy — the second highest 
official of that department. He was a large, fat man with hard, 
determined features , not a man to be toyed with . As I entered 
and sat down, he sat staring at me. I could tell he was very 
angry. His hands were almost shaking with barely concealed 
wrath. Suddenly he shouted, " Popov, your daughter in Swe- 
den has written to the Russian Premier asking for your 
release!" 

I couldn't believe my ears. 

The Russian Premier! 

Rhoda was really going to the top! The letter had been 
sent here to Sofia and was on the desk before me. The Chief 
Deputy picked it up and waved it at me. "Do you think this is 
going to help your case?" he shouted. "If you do you're 
sadly mistaken." With his face flushed red with anger, the 
Chief Deputy pointed his finger at me and said, "Popov, you 
are to write your family, telling them never to write another 
letter on your behalf. You must never make out another 
application to leave!" 

With his voice rising in anger, he shouted, "I am 
warning you for the last time, Popov. I am in charge of these 
matters and I will never give you a passport. Tow' // leave over 
my dead body! You're both an ex -prisoner and a pastor. Just 
being one of those things would forever bar you from leav- 
ing. But you are both\ Now get out of here and don't ever 
come back. " I almost staggered out the door. I was crushed. 
All hope seemed gone. Who would speak for the suffering 

133 



churches? Who would tell our story to awaken the sleeping 
Christians in the Free World? 

Next to these questions , the question of never seeing my 
family again palled into insignificance. It was purely person- 
al. I had a message from the Persecuted Church to the free 
world. How could I ever fulfill it now when the Chief Deputy 
himself stood in the way? Walking back to my attic room, I 
was deep in despair. "God/' I cried out in my heart, "what 
will happen now to our youth who are asking for Scriptures? 
To our people who don't have the Bible? Where will help 
come from?" 

When I reached home, I found Babba Maria and two 

women waiting for me to return with the good news. My 
mission was vital to all the Christians of the Suffering 
Church, and they were all praying! They knew what was at 
stake. I told Babba Maria and the others what had happened; 
how I had been turned down once and for all by the Chief 
Deputy himself who had sworn I would leave over his dead 
body. 

"Ha!" Babba Maria laughed, "I don't care one bit what 
he said. It is vital that you go." She went on, "God has told 
me you are going and it will be very soon. No one can stand in 
the way of God." 

That left me speechless. On one hand I was deeply 
distressed, but on the other hand Babba Maria was a deeply 
spiritual woman. I climbed the stairs to my attic room still 
depressed, but behind me Babba Maria yelled up after me, 
"Now get your bags packed, Haralan. You're going to 
Sweden!" Old Babba didn't doubt God for a moment! So 
typical of the irrepressible faith of Christian women behind 
the Iron Curtain! She kept on praying for God to do the 
impossible and open the doors for me to leave. 

Then the miracle she prayed for happened. 

Just a short time later, the Bulgarian Communist Party 
held its annual conference. Quite unexpectedly a great argu- 
ment broke out among the "comrades" and the heads began 
to roll. Several top and middle-level communist officials 
were booted out, including the Minister for Internal 
Affairs — and along with him the very Chief Deputy who 
swore to me he would never allow me to go! 

134 



Now, just a few days after those threats, he was our of 
office himself! Little did he know that it was little old Babba 
Maria who "prayed him out of a job"! When I heard the 
news, I rushed to tell Babba Maria, "Babba, he doesn't 
know it but he's probably the first high communist official 
ever prayed out of office!" She just grinned and said, "Well, 
he may not be the last one either." 

He was sure I would never leave, but he hadn't counted 
on God's plan. No one can stand in God's way. 

On December 28, a letter came for me saying, ' ' You are 
asked to report to the Passport office. Your passport to travel 
to Sweden to join your family is being granted." How we 
praised God! The miracle had happened. 

Babba Maria just smiled and said, "Haralan, I don't 
like to tell you I told you so, but I told you so! God never fails 
Now go get your passport!" 

It is absolutely unheard of that any former prisoner 
would be released, much less a prisoner who was also an 
"outlawed" evangelical pastor. It's absolutely unpre- 
cedented in our own country or in Russia. But God had an 
urgent mission for me in the Free World, and when God has 
spoken no one can interfere. When a chief communist official 
personally swore I would never leave, God removed him. 

Christians all over Bulgaria fasted and prayed for this 
miracle — and it happened. 

Old Babba Maria's words were fulfilled. 

I went to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and showed the 
letter to a clerk. She told me to go to the National Bank and 
pay a small fee, and to report back with the receipt and get my 
passport. Ten minutes later I was in the National Bank. 
Everything I had to do was arranged for promptly — I didn't 
even have to stand in line for hours. God took care of all the 
details. 

On the following day, the Saturday before New Year's, 
I received my passport. Next, I received my visa from the 
Swedish Consul, then took my passport back to the Passport 
office to get final clearance to travel abroad. I told them that a 
flight was leaving on Monday, December 31st, for Sweden, 
and I was advised to come back on Sunday at 1 1 a.m. to get 

135 



my passport. Since December 3 1st was New Year's Eve and 
a holiday, people worked on Sunday to make up for it. Here, 
too, I saw God's hand, enabling me to leave promptly. 
Otherwise, I would have had to wait ten days for the next 
flight to Sweden and who knows who would have seen the 
documents showing Haralan Popov the "unreformed" 
evangelical pastor and ex-prisoner was being released? It 
violated every rule the communists had! 

I returned to the passport office at nine on the Sunday 
morning. At eleven, they began handing out passports to 
those waiting, but mine was not among them. When I in- 
quired I was told, "We are just giving out the passports to 
communist countries now. You must wait." Noon came. I 
thought to myself, Have the Secret Police changed their 
minds? 

At 12:30 a man's voice called out, "Haralan Popov/' I 
got up to go over praying, "Lord, Thy will be done." 

"Haralan Popov, step over here," the voice called 
again, "we have your pas sport ready." I got it and hurried to 
the Balkan Travel Bureau to get my ticket for the plane next 
day. Exactly at closing time, at 1 p.m., everything was 
cleared — passport, visa, and ticket were all in my hand. 

God had made the impossible possible for He had an 
urgent mission for me in the free world. All over the country 
the underground churches received word that "Pastor Popov 
is getting out. " Their prayers had been answered. There was 
great rejoicing. 

At 8:00 a.m. Monday, December 31 , 1962, 1 was at the 
airport and the plane left at 10:00 a.m. 

After leaving Sofia, we flew to Prague, then over East 
Germany, touching down in East Berlin for half an hour. I 
left the plane, but with communist guards around, I felt 
prison walls still surrounded me there. Back on the plane I 
asked the stewardess to tell me when we flew over the border 
from East to West Germany. When we were over the border, 
I lifted up a prayer of thanks to God that now I was really 
outside prison walls. 

Ten minutes before the ringing in of the New Year, the 
plane touched down at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm. I have 

136 



no words to describe the reunion that followed. Ruth, Rhoda, 
Paul and my son-in-law, Johani, and little grandson were 
there. Four days before I had not known whether I would ever 
see my family again in this life. Every long-standing com- 
munist rule had been broken and a Chief Deputy of the 
communist party had sworn I would leave over his dead 
body, was suddenly out of office. Now I was here! Tears of 
joy flowed freely. As I embraced Ruth I thought, Is this 
true, or is it a dream? 

It was true. I embraced Rhoda — Rhoda, the little 
weeping girl I had last seen nearly 15 years ago crying, 
4 'Daddy, Daddy," as I was led away. Paul who was only 4 
when I was arrested was now almost a man and all these years 
he had had no father. I tearfully clutched him. What a day of 
reunion it was! 

As we rode home from the airport in the bus, church 
bells were ringing out the old year and ringing in the new. 
Hearing them, reminded me of the church bells that Christ- 
mas Eve at Persin when I was half-drowned and lying in the 
frozen mud exhausted and waiting for death. They reminded 
me of the 13 Christmases I had spent in prison cells, cold and 
lonely. For me and my family was truly a New Year and a 
new life. 

But that new life has a mission: to speak for the perse- 
cuted church I left behind the Iron Curtain. So after a short 
period of recuperation and being with the children, I told 
Ruth , ' * Honey , the time has come for me to do what I c ame to 
do. The Christians are counting on me. I must not let them 
down." 

Ruth understood. She always has. 

Since then, I have been often away from home and my 
family on a mission for my other family — the faithful 
Persecuted Church which is struggling with empty hands to 
serve Christ in Communist lands. 



A Message From the Persecuted Church 

My mission among you in the Free World is to awaken 

137 



the conscience of the Christians in the Free World to the 
suffering and needs of our fellow-Christians behind the Iron 
Curtain. They are today suffering for the faith just as did 
Peter and Paul and the Christians of the Early Church. 

Whether in Bulgaria or Russia or America, we are all 
part of the same Body of Christ. We are all brothers and 
sisters in Christ, children of the same God. Yet that part of 
the Body of Christ in the Communist world is being tortured, 
imprisoned and suffering as never before since the days of the 
martyrs of the Early Church. Can you not feel their pain? 

Recently, several members of the Persecuted Church in 
Russia have died, including a twenty-year-old Christian boy, 
Ivan Moiseyev, serving in the Soviet Army. Secret Police 
gave the reason for his death as " natural causes" yet this 
does not explain his bruised and mutilated body which was 
exposed at the funeral because of the tradition to open the 
coffin for a last look at the loved one. 

These courageous Christians are always supposedly 
ng from "natural causes." I, myself , have seen hundreds 
of such natural deaths in prison due to the effects of starva- 
tion, beatings and torture 

Thousands arc today imprisoned for their faith in the 
Soviet Union. Behind a carefully contrived image of religi- 
ous freedom, the roll of Christian martyrs of our day grows 
tragically longer Behind the current propaganda of Bibles 
being printed in Communist lands, is the harsh fact that the 
Communists control the distribution and these few Bibles are 
chiefl) for propaganda purposes. Behind the contrived image 
of toleration of belie nldren are being taken from 

Christian parents for life and put into atheistic boarding 
schools. Can you imagine the anguish of those parents who 
have had their children taken away? 

Even as this spiritual struggle rages behind the Iron 
Curtain, as martyrs are dying for their faith, and as true 
servants of God are arrested and have their children taken 
from them for life, yet in the churches of the free world, one 
can go for years without hearing one prayer for our suffering 
brethren in Communist lands! 

I have spoken around the world on behalf of the Suffer- 



138 



ing Church and I have often asked, * 'Who here has prayed for 
the suffering Christians of the Suffering Church?" Always 
the answer is almost no one! 

It is a shame on the conscience of all free Christians. 
We from communist lands are your brothers and sisters in 
Christ. We are one body in Christ. 

We ask for the Bibles and "tools of evangelism" we so 
desperately need to keep the Word of God alive. 

The tragic lack of Bibles is the greatest need in the 
Communist lands today. 

My people accept the suffering. They understand this is 
their cross. 

But they don t understand why their brothers and sisters 
in the free world seem to have forgotten them — even in 
their prayers. 

I am away from Ruth and the children speaking day and 
night now on behalf of the Persecuted Church and asking free 
Christians to pray for them. 

It is our Christian duty before God to help the destitute, 
suffering families of men imprisoned for their faith. We must 
help them, and we have ways to do it. 

I shall never forget how my own family almost starved 
when I was imprisoned. The same tragedy is now happening 
to many Christian families. 

How can we sleep in peace at night, knowing the suffer- 
ing they pass through? How can we read our Bibles and our 
hearts not weep for these who have no Bible? 

The message I bring to you from the Persecuted Church 
is: 

"Do not forget us." 

4 Tray for us." 

"Give us the Bibles, the tools to work with, and we will 
use them for Christ." 

I remember so well one of the dark solitary confinement 
cells at Persin. On the gray cement cell wall was a faded 
inscription scratched onto the surface by some unknown 
Christian who had been there before me. That inscription 
read: "Has even God forgotten me?" 

That anguished cry etched onto the prison wall is the cry 

139 



coming from our fellow Christians of the Persecuted Church 
in communist lands today. 

No, God hasn't forgotten them. And neither must we. 

This is my message to you from the Persecuted Church. 

If it is heard, and if my people receive the Bibles and 
help they need, my years in Communist prisons will not have 
been in vain. 

Ruth, Paul and Rhoda join me in this firm belief. 



Still Calling From Macedonia 

My story is told but the tale goes on. It must. Mace- 
donia, the ancient Bulgaria, still calls. No, it cries out: 
"Come over and help us." 

The tale must go on because no end is in sight for the 
dark night that yet covers the Communist-dominated 
countries — the Macedonias of the modern world. Sin has 
multiplied its tentacles. Those who would dare stand true for 
Christ are all but strangled by the grip of the Communist 
monster which will not rest until it has crushed the very 
breath from the Suffering Church. 

In November of 1977 the Communists celebrated the 
sixtieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. In Wash- 
ington, as Americans and Russians and dignitaries from a 
score or more of nations raised their glasses to toast the most 
momentous event in modern history, about two hundred 
worshipers met across town, braving a driving rain to cele- 
brate a Mass for the martyrs of that revolution. While some 
might be oblivious to one of the greatest evils to befall 
mankind, others could not forget. Christ's witnesses still are 
being martyred. 

With the Bolshevik anniversary thus remembered, there 
were some of us who were remembering , in a quiet, unevent- 
ful way, another important anniversary — the fifth anniver- 
sary of the founding of ECL, Evangelism to Communist 
Lands. This was my response to my own Macedonian 
call — a call that I could not for a moment ignore. 

Quietly, hopefully, there were voices cheering us on. 



140 



There were two hundred and more voices from the city of 
Nahadka, in easternmost Siberia, calling out in gratitude to 
us. There were encouraging signs that they would be the first 
contingent to leave the Soviet Union as a direct result of their 
protests to the incessant and merciless persecution for their 
faith. Forced to worship in secret because they could not 
bring themselves to endure atheists having the final say in 
their religious activities, these Pentecostalists, along with 
300,000 and more others of their numbers, wanted out, 
willing to go anywhere so long as they could worship their 
Lord in freedom. 

ECL had testified before Congress in their behalf — and 
in behalf of Rev. Georgi Vins, a Baptist preacher from the 
Ukraine, who likewise could not bow to atheistic demands. 
He was in prison for the third time — a living (although 
scarcely) martyr for the faith. Partially because of ECL's 
efforts, Congress passed an unprecedented bill denouncing 
the Soviet Union and asking specifically for Brother Vins' 
release. Pressure from the bastion of freedom was placed on a 
country which makes a farce of freedom. 

The people of Nahadka had their hope because ECL had 
joined forces with the deeply respected Tolstoy Foundation 
in New York City. A secular institution and one established 
specifically to help the Suffering Church joined forces to 
bring relief to a troubled people. 

Cheering us on also were the voices of tens and hun- 
dreds of thousands who were hearing the Gospel message 
over half a dozen and more of powerful and not-so-powerful 
stations in the United States and around the world. I preach 
several times each month in Bulgarian to reach my suffering 
fellow Christians. If they suffer, Christ suffers and I also 
suffer. We all must share in that suffering, for inseparably, if 
we are bound to Christ, then we are part of the same glorious 
body. ''Why/' someday our Lord will ask of the Com- 
munists, "did you kick against the pricks?" Only then, it 
will not be in mercy, as when He asked the question of the 
apostle Paul, but in judgment. The question is a two-edged 
sword. 

ECL early learned that broadcasting is an effective 

141 



means of answering the Macedonian call. When the Com- 
munists began jamming our broadcasts, we rejoiced. It was a 
sinister voice of communism telling us we were hitting a raw 
nerve. We simply moved on to more powerful stations. 

Today, with our fifth anniversary just passed, we broad- 
cast in three languages, including Russian and Bulgarian, 
over four international stations to a large number of the 
Communist nations. Who can tell how many have been 
brought into the Kingdom by such preaching? Who can tell 
how much the Suffering Church has grown in numbers and in 
spiritual strength by such obedience to the command to 
preach the Gospel to everyone in season and out of season? 
Even out of season, as the closed doors of the Communist 
countries suggest, there is a harvest to be had. Much, then, of 
the money faithful Christians send to ECL — my spiritual 
"alter ego" — goes toward getting the gospel out where the 
Church suffers. Not one dime of it is ill-spent. 

This mission, its faithful and dedicated workers so dear 
to my heart, also makes bold sallies against the Communist 
countries, making telling penetrations through a vast net- 
work of people who, at great personal risk, bring the Bible 
into lands where it is all but forbidden. Through a plan called 
"Operation Jericho" we printed 200,000 Bibles and New 
Testaments. Considering the population of these countries, 
this does not sound like many. But remembering their cost, 
remembering the difficulty involved in getting them through 
the borders, and most of all the virtual unavailability of 
Bibles in those countries, then such a ministry is one of major 
proportions. 

Naturally, only a few can "run" the Word of God 
through such gauntlets. Our offices and contact points are not 
only in the United States, but also in Great Britain, Sweden, 
Switzerland, South Africa, India, Taiwan, Australia, 
France, and Canada; they serve as vital outposts for such acts 
of daring. Some of God's choicest saints help us. 

But from behind desks in Kalamazoo, Michigan, or 
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, there are hundreds upon hundreds 
of other less daring but effective saints who help us take 
God's Word directly behind the Iron Curtain. They do it 

142 



through our extensive direct mailing ministry — New Testa- 
ment Letter Ministry — a ministry of mailing segments of the 
Word into such countries using lists we make up from tele- 
phone books. Individuals involved in the New Testament 
Letter Ministry send tens of thousands of complete New 
Testaments into numerous Communist countries, a small 
segment at a time. 

ECL prints these mail-away New Testament segments, 
which we call signatures, in several languages. The home 
missionary who shares in this aspect of ECL's ministry 
blankets his or her work in prayers, both for ECL and for the 
intended recipient. Before an individual is finished with the 
program, each person receives the entire New Testament, an 
installment at a time. The person who sends the New Testa- 
ment segment does so at the low cost of an appropriate 
airmail stamp per segment, a day at a time. This way tens of 
thousands of people who are part of the Suffering Church are 
boosted in their spirits, strengthened in the Word, and truly 
made to feel they are part of the body of Christ. Those who 
send learn more than ever before about Paul's admonition: 
"Weep with those who weep. Rejoice with those who re- 
joice." The body of Christ, thus, is not divided, but one in 
spirit. 

And how many hundreds behind the Iron Curtain, who 
didn't know the Suffering Servant, have come to be willing to 
suffer with Him and for Him because of that prayerful service 
in Kalamazoo and in Saskatoon. Only eternity will reveal its 
full magnitude. 

Books and magazines and other publications help to tell 
the story. And ECL sends " missionaries" with films of my 
story and the story of the Suffering Church to hundreds of 
churches each year. This book, in its earlier forms, has 
touched the lives of literally millions of people, with more 
than a half-million copies distributed around the world. My 
wish in prison was that I might survive to tell the world my 
story and the story of the Suffering Church. Thanks be to 
God, my prayers have been answered a million times and 
more. Until the Lord comes or until the Hell of the Com- 
munist world changes, that story will be told by various 

143 



means, many million times more. What more wonderful 
answer to prayer could an old man ever ask for! 

I am on the road for more weeks each year than I am 
home, speaking in large churches and small, preparing radio 
messages, writing books and editorials — doing anything 
and everything to answer the Macedonian call: "Come and 
help us." 



Another Cry Is Heard 

Only two months before the world marked the sixtieth 
anniversary of the advent of nationally imposed com- 
munism, an evangelist respected around the world was in- 
vited by Hungarian church leaders to hold one of his crusades 
in Hungary. Virtually no restrictions were placed on him, 
and hundreds went forward to profess their faith in Christ, 
This is one of the most rigid of Communist countries. 

Of course, one rejoices to know that even one person 
comes to receive Jesus, let alone the hundreds and even 
thousands. I have the profoundest respect for this man of God 
and for how he has been used over the years for His purposes. 

But I was deeply saddened, too. The Los Angeles 
Times, printing two contradictory stories in the same edition 
on September 8, 1977, illustrates my point. One story was 
datelined Budapest, and the other Moscow. 

The story from Budapest quoted the evangelist as seeing 
communism and religion being able to coexist. ''People can 
come to church and worship God," the man of God said. 
' 'There was no precondition and no restriction on any of my 
preaching at any time. I preached the same messages that I 
have preached all over the world in the same way." It 
undoubtedly was so. 

But the Moscow story in the same paper was about the 
KGB and three hundred police battling for six hours to break 
up a demonstration of Soviet Baptists protesting the closing 
of their meeting house in Bryansk, 220 miles southwest of 
Moscow. A religious rights group, monitoring just how the 
Soviet Union was living up to the Helsinki Agreement, said 

144 



this coincided with a swoop on other Baptist communities in 
Rostov and the Ukrainian town of Garlovka. 

When the Baptists in Bryansk refused to leave their 
house of worship, they spent two days inside without food 
and water. The police moved in with truncheons and fire- 
hoses after an attempt to drive them out with smoke failed. 
Two pastors were severely beaten, and about 1 50 others were 
beaten. 

The voice of the Suffering Church now is one that is 
crying out in anguish — and even in disgust. It is the voice of 
those who suffer not alone from Communist oppressors, but 
from the naivete of well-meaning brothers and sisters in the 
free world. 

"No! No! Don't you believe it," the Suffering Church 
cries out. "Only Satan could lead you into believing a bigger 
lie." 

To any who have had dealings with the Communists, it 
is, of course, no secret that only Satan can lie more convinc- 
ingly than the Communist. But it takes no expert in spiritual 
things to recognize that the Great Deceiver is at work to lull 
Christians in the free world into believing a new era is 
coming in the Communist attitude toward the church and 
toward the preaching of the Gospel. 

The last great strategy of the Communists to destroy the 
church is to work through the leaders of the officially regis- 
tered or sanctioned churches. Many of these men are well- 
selected mouthpieces of the Communist party in every coun- 
try behind the Iron and Bamboo curtains. 

Some of these very pastors hold their favored positions 
only by the good graces of the governments that, it they can't 
fully abuse them, use them. They often prove to be more 
faithful as propagandists for communism than even members 
of the Communist party are able to be, though this may, in 
some cases, be done in ignorance. 

The purpose of the Communist party is fulfilled in these 
mouthpieces when they make contact with the free world and 
present the idea that there is real religious and civil liberty in 
their countries. 

There is a special niche in the Communist scheme of 

145 



things for such spokesmen. They are allowed to invite 
churchmen and others to their showplace churches in Mos- 
cow and Leningrad and Warsaw and Belgrade and a few 
other selected big cities to show off this freedom. Americans 
and Canadians and other free- world people come back, 
speaking of the churches that are filled to overflowing, with a 
sound Gospel being preached. 

No one ever is told of the hundreds, even tens of 
thousands, of churches that have been closed, forcing a 
relative handful of people into the few churches remaining 
open. Certainly this is going to look as if freedom abounds. 

"Don't believe it!" the Suffering Church cries out. 
Don't believe it no matter how enthusiastic the words, how 
sincere the Christian. The lie is compounded when these 
clerical servants of the Communist party are allowed to come 
out of their countries to spread the word that things are 
changing in the Communist world, that freedom exists, that 
religion and communism can coexist. 

Let me say without equivocation that Christianity — true 
Bible-centered, evangelical Christianity — can never coexist 
with communism. Ask — were it even possible — the many 
hundreds who are in prison for trying to exercise their faith. 
Ask the tens of thousands who fear for their families and their 
jobs daily because of their faith. Ask the author of Gulag 
Archipelago what he thinks. Ask the imprisoned members of 
teams which were, ironically, monitoring how the Soviet 
Union abides by the Helsinki Agreement. Ask the Rev. 
Georgi Vins what one can be thrown into prison for. Ask his 
aging mother why she was in prison. Ask the 300,000 Pen- 
tecostals who indicate they want out of Russia why it is they 
want to leave the only home , the only loved ones they ' ve ever 
known. 

Ask. Then pray. Then come . Join us in this mighty work 
God has raised up in answer to the Macedonian call and to the 
cry from the Suffering Church. 



146 



The author invites correspondence regarding the present 
situation in Communist lands. Gifts for printing Bibles and 
assisting suffering Christians in Communist countries may 
be sent to — 



Rev. Haralan Popov 
Founder/President 
Evangelism to Communist 

Lands - USA 
Box 303 
Glendale, CA 91209 

ECL - Canada 
Box 65899 
Vancouver, B.C. 

V5N 5L3 



ECL - Australia 

Box 230 

Moe, Victoria 3825 

ECL - England 

Box 66 

Southampton S09 7EL 

ECL - South Africa 
Box 25039 

Monument Park, 0105 
Pretoria 



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mn raos mm 

"A man of God disappeared into Com- 
munist prisons — thirteen years later a 
'spiritual giant' came out" 





The Author after 13 
years in Communist 
prisons. 



The Author as he is 
today. 



MORE THAN 500,000 COPIES IN PRINT! 

The name Haralan Popov is deeply revered behind 
the Iron Curtain today. He has become a symbol of 
Christian courage to many thousands whose faith is 
under attack in the Communist world. 

He is a spiritual leader of the people of Bulgaria 
— a land called "Little Russia," where he pastored 
the largest protestant church in the nation and was 
his country's foremost evangelist. His very prom- 
inence as a spiritual leader of the people brought 
him especially severe suffering during 13 years 
imprisonment. 

In prisons, he continued his work for God despite 
the price of suffering he had to pay. After 13 years of 
prison, he became a leader of the Secret Church 
which came into existence when the official church 
fell under Communist control. 

Later, at the urging of the Persecuted Church, he 
made his way to the Free World to awaken free 
Christians to its existence and need for Bibles. He 
has been called a "Voice of the Suffering Church" 
and is now directing the smuggling of tens of thou- 
sands of Bibles to peoples in Communist lands. 

ISBN 0-310-31262-0' No. 18070p